According to the United States Department of Justice every forty seconds a child is being abducted. This works out to be about 2,000 abductions per day and 800,000 abductions per year. This would be 11. 4 children per every 1,000 children being abducted. Seventy-five percent of abductions are committed by males. Sixty-seven percent of these perpetrators are under the age of twenty-nine. Seventy-four percent of children abducted are girls. Seventy-one percent of the kidnappers are strangers to the victims. Eighty percent of abductions occur within a quarter of a mile from where the child lives.
Less than sixty of the children are returned to their families alive. Four percent of the children abducted are never found. Seventy-four percent of the children abducted are dead within three hours (Kidnapping Statistics, Kids Fighting Chance). To save children’s lives it is important to get the message out quickly and accurately. The AMBER Alert was created for the purpose of returning missing children to their families. What is the AMBER Alert, what is its purpose and criteria, and what is its effectiveness and concerns? Amber Hagerman was riding her bike near her Arlington, Texas home on January 13, 1996.
The beautiful nine-year-old was abducted in front of her home. The abduction was witnessed by a concerned neighbor and Amber’s brother, Ricky. As the neighbor contacted the police about the kidnapping, Ricky went to tell his parents what had occurred. Amber’s parents could not just sit and wait for information. They knew they had to get the information out to the public. They begin contacting the media and the FBI. Four days later the family received the news that their daughter’s body had been discovered in a storm drainage ditch.
The abductor in this case has never been found. Amber’s parents created the organization, People Against Sex Offenders. It was established to force Texas legislature to pass stricter laws to protect children. The United States Legislature took up the cause and passed the Amber Hagerman Child Protection Act. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in October 1996. At a Dallas radio symposium in July 1996, Amber’s father, Richard Hagerman, spoke to the group of the importance of quickly getting the abduction message out to the public.
Bruce Seybert, another presenter at the symposium, spoke about the role the media can play in getting the message to the public in a quick and timely manner. A reporter from KRLD approached the Dallas police chief about working together to send out these important messages. This was the beginning of the AMBER Alert. (AMBER Alerts, Wikipedia) At first, the alert was sent manually to local radio stations that participated in the alert program. The Child Alert Foundation created the Alert Notification System in 1998. This system automatically notified communities of abductions. These alerts were sent all at one time.
This system followed the procedures of the emergency broadcasting system when there is inclement weather. In October 2001, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) launched a campaign to have the AMBER Alert systems established nationwide. In February 2002, The Federal Communications Commission officially endorsed the system. California established the AMBER Alert system on July 24, 2002 after the kidnapping and murder of Samantha Runnion (AMBER Alert, Wikipedia). The purpose of the AMBER Alert is to get the information out as quickly as possible to save the life of a child.
It is a partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, and transportation agencies. When an alert is issued, news bulletins are broadcasted on radio and television networks, as well as, bulletins are posted on billboards along interstate highways. When the alert is activated the entire community and state can begin the search. The AMBER Alert is based on the same concept as a severe weather emergency. The community is quickly notified. They begin the search, so they can bring the missing child home without being harmed (AMBER Alert, Bringing Abducted Children Home).
AMBER Alerts are issued after law enforcement determines that there has been abduction. Law enforcement must believe that the missing child is in danger of harm. An Alert can only be issued by law enforcement. Abductions by strangers are the most dangerous and are the primary mission of the Alert. AMBER Alerts are issued for children under the age of seventeen. Each state has its own age limits, but the majority uses seventeen as the cut off. Descriptive information is given of the missing child, the abductor, and the abductor’s vehicle used in the abduction.
The missing child’s name is placed into the National Crisis Information Center (NCIC) system. Not only is the AMBER Alert named after Amber Hagerman, but AMBER also stands for America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response (Child Abduction, AMBER Alert, and Crime Control Theater). About 250 to 300 AMBER Alerts are issued each year. To keep up with changing times AMBER Alerts are moving into the Web network. To be effective, more people need to be reached, and to do this the Internet is needed. The old system when it was activated could take up to an hour for all sources to be reached.
In abduction, a rapid response can be crucial. With the new system, partly financed by Hewlett-Packard and other technical companies, one key password can send messages immediately. About thirteen states use this as part of their Alert system. Law enforcement enters information into a data base. Photos can be uploaded and sent with the message. Information is sent directly to the state police. At that point, the entire state is notified about the abduction. In November 2002, alerts were offered digitally through America Online.
As of August 2002, seventeen children have been successfully recovered after an AMBER Alert has been issued. In one case, an abductor released a child after hearing the Alert issued about him. AMBER Alerts have brought communities together. Communities have worked closely with law enforcement to offer seminars on safety, and how to keep their community safe. Communities are learning their neighbors. They are locating sex offenders in their communities. Communities are keeping track of strangers who they feel could hurt their children. Community members are getting involved in searches when Alerts are issued.
They want to see all their neighbors safe especially children. Communities are becoming more aware of suspicious activities in their neighborhoods. They are contacting law enforcement when they see questionable activity around them. Parents are keeping children identification current. In case something horrific occurs, parents have updated information that can be presented to law enforcement. Law enforcement also offers parents identification cards and chips to help keep their children’s information current. With the effectiveness of the AMBER Alert come the concerns.
The first concern is that AMBER Alerts cannot be issued unless law enforcement deems it necessary. Time can pass waiting for the police to make the decision as to where they have enough information to issue an Alert. Issuing an Alert too quickly can cause the public to be enraged with law enforcement because they have “cried wolf” too soon. Some of the children that law enforcement thought were kidnapped were in reality runaways. The second concern is that issuing the Alert has only brought seventeen children safely home. Researchers believe that these children would have been found even without the Alert.
The AMBER Alert has been called “crime control theater” in that it “creates the appearance but not the fact of crime control (Child Abduction, AMBER Alert, and Crime Control Theater, Sage Journals). ” The third concern was when the Alert went digital, the Alerts went out everywhere. It went to communities that were not near the abducted area. This problem has been corrected. Alerts are only issued and pen pointed to specific geographical locations. If law enforcement believes new areas need to be included in the Alert, they will add those areas immediately. The fourth concern is the traffic situation.
When an Alert is issued, billboards along interstates are changed to send out the Amber Alert. People begin to read the Alert and forget they are driving. Accidents have occurred during Amber Alerts. Distracted drivers have also caused major traffic congestions as they read the alerts. Some states have limited the Alerts allowed on heavily traveled interstates (AMBER Alert, Wikipedia). AMBER Alert is one tool that law enforcement agencies have to help recover abducted children. The loss of one beautiful child has saved the lives of at least seventeen children.
The Alert recognizes the importance of law enforcement, the media, and the community working together to save the lives of abducted children. To commemorate the AMBER Alert, the United States Postal Service issued a postage stamp in May, 2006 (AMBER Alert, Wikipedia). The quicker the response is to abduction, the better the outcome will be. The AMBER Alert Plan is one of the most effective strategies law enforcement has to protect children (AMBER Alert Statement of Purpose, Amber Alert Wisconsin). Resource Page Kids fighting Chance. “Kidnapping Statistics. 23. Nov, 2009. http://www. kidsfightingchance. com/stats. php. Amber Alert Wisconsin. “Amber Alert Statement of Purpose. ” 20. Nov, 2009. http://www. amberalertwisconsin. org/content/pupose. asp. Sage Journals Online. “Child Abduction, AMBER Alert, and Crime Control Theater. ” 20. Nov, 2009. http://cjr. sagepub. com/cgi/content/abstract/33/2/159. AMBER Alert. “Bringing Abducted Children Home. ” 20. Nov, 2009. www. ncjrs. gov/html/ojjdp/amberalert/000712/index. html. Wikipedia. “AMBER Alert. ” 20. Nov, 2009. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/AMBER_Alert.