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DOJ Press Release letterhead

  • TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2009
  • Office of Justice Programs
  • Contact: Joan LaRocca
  • (202) 307-0703


492 Children Safely Recovered Since Program Began

       WASHINGTON, D.C. - The sixth annual AMBER Alert Symposium, sponsored by the Justice Department, Office of Justice Programs (OJP) opened today in Tampa, FL. The symposium includes federal, state, tribal and local representatives from the United States as well as international partners from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

       Child abduction victims and their families, along with the latest information on human trafficking, Child Abduction Response Teams, uses of new technology, border coordination topics and the use of AMBER Alerts in tribal communities are major items of focus at the symposium. The parents of Jessica Lunsford, Elizabeth Smart and Samantha Runnion will join more than 40 family members to share their experiences and offer their insights on bringing abducted children home. These families’ discussions will help shape future training programs and contribute to a document outlining best practices and a victim perspective on responses to missing, abducted or endangered children.

       "Keeping children safe is our number one priority, and the AMBER Alert System is an important tool for all of us," said OJP's Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary. Ms. Leary is also the National AMBER Alert Coordinator. "When a child is lost or abducted we want everyone to be vigilant and aware. We need to be sure that our response is both swift and seamless."

       To date, 492 abducted children are home safely as a direct result of an AMBER Alert. All 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have AMBER Alert plans.

       The conference also includes information on the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Initiative that brings AMBER Alert programs into tribal communities. Approximately 20 tribes have AMBER Alert plans, and more than 600 tribal officials and community members have attended training or participated in technical assistance programs.

       Efforts are currently underway to bring the AMBER Alert program into Mexico through the AMBER Alert Southern Border Initiative. Hundreds of local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement officers from the United States and Mexico met this year in San Diego, CA and El Paso, TX, to train and discuss efforts to stop child abductions in both countries. On May 13, Baja California became the first state in Mexico to have an AMBER Alert plan.

       During today's keynote address, Ms. Leary presented awards to individuals who have made a significant impact in bringing abducted children home. The recipients are:

           The AMBER Alert system began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. The system was created in memory of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas, who was abducted while riding her bicycle and later found murdered. AMBER Alerts are emergency messages broadcast when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. For more information about the AMBER Alert program please visit

           The symposium continues through Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Tampa Downtown, Tampa, FL.


The Office of Justice Programs, headed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has five component bureaus: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office for Victims of Crime. Additionally, OJP has two program offices: the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed strategy, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART). More information can be found at