The Amber Alert Program is an alert system for missing and abducted children that is used across the globe. When a child is abducted and meets the criteria of the Amber Alert program, an alert is issued across all media forums, and greatly increases the chance of the child being located safe. The program has evolved and proven itself to be a leading example of what we can do to better protect our children.
The Amber Alert program was created in 1996 as a powerful legacy to nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, a bright little girl who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas. On January 13, 1996, Amber Hagerman, was riding bikes with her 5-year old brother, Ricky, to an abandoned grocery store near her grandparents home. Ricky quickly decided to return home while Amber stayed to continue riding her bike. Jim Kevil, 78, was in his back yard not far from where Amber was biking. He noticed Amber riding her bike by herself when a man suddenly pulled up in a dark colored pick-up truck, jumped out and grabbed Amber as she began screaming. Kevil immediately called police to report Amber’s abduction. Meanwhile, back at Amber’s grandparents’ house, Ricky arrived home alone. The kids’ grandfather, Jimmie Whitson, began to worry about Amber and heading towards the abandoned grocery store to check on his granddaughter. When he arrived, law enforcement was already on the scene, and Amber’s family’s lives were forever altered after being hurdled into this nightmare.
Although Amber’s abduction was reported immediately, it is very difficult to solve stranger abductions. These abductions are usually a crime of opportunity, with the abductor seeing the child, in this case Amber, alone and impulsively decides to take them. In Amber’s case authorities believe that her kidnapper was familiar with the area.
The local police were joined by volunteers and the FBI in a massive search for Amber.
Tragically, 4 days after Amber went missing, a man was walking his dog near the Forest Hill Apartments, just a few miles from where Amber had been taken, and saw Amber’s body, with her throat cut at the bottom of a creek bed.
An autopsy determined that Amber had actually been held alive for 2 full days before being murdered, during which time she was sexually assaulted repeatedly. Arlington police and the FBI formed a task force to search for Amber’s killer, following over 6,800 leads, but were never able to solve Amber’s murder. Amber’s family maintains hope that Amber’s killer will be found someday.
On the anniversary of Amber’s disappearance, friends and family gather at the site of her abduction, now a bustling business complex, lighting their candles and singing Amber’s favorite songs. A moment of silence is observed to remind the world that Amber’s case remains unsolved, and her killer remains free. The law enforcement officers who were involved with Amber’s case have never quit, and vow to continue their efforts until Amber’s case is resolved.
The years have passed since Amber’s abduction and murder, and her little brother Ricky is now 20 years old. Amber’s mother, Norris, says that Ricky initially blamed himself for leaving his sister alone. “I remember one Christmas the families were here … and he goes in the room and shuts the door,” she said. “I go in there to see what’s wrong with him, and he’s crying. He said, ‘I can’t open my Christmas gifts. I can’t be happy like everybody else, because my sister’s not here.’ “That hurt,” Norris said. “Seeing your surviving child go through that and still going through that, it’s rough.”
In the time that passed after the shock of Amber’s murder hit the town, a single caller to a Dallas radio station asked a simple question: why can’t law enforcement team with the media to quickly provide information to the public when a child is abducted? The idea caught on, and the Amber Alert program was founded. Since its creation, Amber Alert has been credited with the rescue of more than 300 missing and abducted children.
Amber Alert is a voluntary partnership involving law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, and transportation agencies. During an Amber Alert, an urgent news bulletin is broadcast over the airwaves and throughout all media outlets, as well as on highway alert signs to enlist the aid of the public in finding an abducted child and stopping the perpetrator. Amber Alert is based on the same concept used to alert the public to a severe weather emergency. During an Amber Alert, the Emergency Alert System (EAS), formerly called the Emergency Broadcast System, airs a description of an abducted child and suspected abductor. The purpose is to instantly galvanize the entire community in the search for and safe return of an abducted child.
The goal of Amber Alert is to recover abducted children before they meet physical harm. Statistics show that time itself is the enemy of an abducted child, because most children who are kidnapped and later found murdered die within the first three hours after being taken. Amber Alert aims to turn that statistic around. Studies show that when ordinary citizens become the eyes and ears of law enforcement, precious lives can be saved.
Anyone who wishes to receive Amber Alerts in their area via text, can sign up at the following link.
The Amber Alert system was designed specifically for abducted children and while it’s exact criteria can differ slightly from state-to-state and province-to-province, guidelines for a set of minimum criteria was issued by the Department of Justice after the PROTECT Act, passed in 2003, which most states adhere closely to.
The Department’s Guidance on Criteria for Issuing Amber Alerts are as follows:
- Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place. (This means that someone must have witnessed the abduction of the child.)
- The child is at risk of serious injury or death. (In most cases, a child is abducted by someone they know; In the most dangerous cases, they are abducted by a stranger. Law enforcement may evaluate a child’s risk dependent on whom the abductor is. Also in consideration is the existence of the child requiring medical assistance or medication administered to the child for conditions such as epilepsy and asthma etc.)
- There is sufficient descriptive information of the child, the captor or the captor’s vehicle to issue an Alert. (Depending on the state in which the alert is being issued, the minimum information needed may be the license plate number.)
- The child must be 17-years-old or younger. (This is the variable that ranges most from state-to-state, some having set the age at 10 or younger.)
If these criteria are met, alert information is assembled for public distribution. This information may include descriptions and pictures of the missing child, the suspected abductor, and a suspected vehicle along with any other information available and valuable to identifying the child and suspect.
All these restrictions may lead one to wonder if their missing child is insignificant. Absolutely not. However, the circumstances by which a child becomes missing– wandering off by mistake, running away after an argument, custody disputes, etc– deem state or nationwide lookouts for a child not in danger of injury or death detrimental to the intended purpose of the entire Amber Alert system. Advocates for missing children are concerned that the public will become desensitized to Amber Alerts if a large number of alerts are issued without adhering to the Department of Justice’s activation guidelines. Case in point, only 70 of the 233 Amber Alerts issued in 2004 (30%) were actually children taken by strangers or who were unlawfully traveling with adults other than their legal guardians. This is one of the reasons in which guidelines need to be set in place for the Amber Alert system. When an alert is issued, the public knows immediately that the child is in a life or death situation, which then causes the public to react swiftly, just as they would in any other emergency situation. If an Amber Alert was issued every day, eventually they would come to no longer garner the attention that is needed for this system to work. Every missing child is important, and finding them is the outmost priority. With systems such as Amber Alert, we are furthering our knowledge on how best to approach cases by the distinguishing characteristics, rather than treat every case by the same standard, which would actually HINDER the investigation into the child’s case.
The Amber Alert system is one that society can be proud to implement. It is a perfect example of how knowledge and information about missing child cases can be used to help prevent the same situation from repeatedly reoccurring. For all of the amazing results the Amber Alert system has obtained, we need to remind ourselves of the little girl that is responsible for saving the lives of so many children. The loss of Amber will never be made up for, and in the same respect, it will not pass by without prompting change. Amber’s family has created a legacy in her name, and that legacy is saving lives. It’s tragic that a beautiful little girl had to be abducted and murdered before these changes were brought about, and so that is why every year on January 13, I light an extra candle in honor of Amber, in honor of all the sunshine she brought to this world while she remained in it, in honor of her memory and in honor of her ongoing legacy. I implore you all to do the same. Please take a moment on this day to remember Amber, to thank her, and to thank her family for having the strength, courage and determination to save so many little lives, for without Amber, none of this would have been possible.
CHILDREN SAVED BY AMBER ALERTS
Not all missing child cases end tragically, there IS always hope we can bring these children home. Success stories are of vital importance when it comes to making people more aware of their ability to help locate and save missing children. They give us hope, they remind us that while we do lose a great number of these children, we also save a great deal. All it takes is one person to be in the right place at the right time, armed with the right information and a child’s life can be saved. While the stories that ended tragically leave a cut on our heart, the stories that end happily heal these cuts. Every time a child is brought home, our lights shine a little brighter and our chances of saving other children increases. It only takes ONE person to save a child’s life, and you never know when you may become a child’s hero, so keep your eyes open, and don’t be afraid to come forward with ANY information you may have regarding a missing child. The more awareness we call to these children, the more of these stories we can share – the more happy endings we can witness. The AMBER Alert program creates these happy endings. As of June 21, 2013, AMBER Alerts had successfully saved 653 children, and that number only continues to climb.
Here are the stories of some of the children that followed the light home …
October 30, 2012
A 6 year-old boy was abducted when his father and he were confronted by four armed men wearing black ski masks. The men took the baby boy and fled. An AMBER Alert was issued and not long after the child was dropped off at a shopping center where a guard recognized him from the AMBER Alert. The guard contacted law enforcement and the child was safely rescued.
October 24, 2012
A 5 year-old girl was abducted from her yard by a registered sex offender. The child’s mother noticed her missing and witnessed the offender driving away. An AMBER Alert was issued which the abductor saw, causing the man to contact law enforcement and turn himself and surrender the child. The little girl was safely rescued.
October 16, 2012
A 2 year-old baby girl was left in a car by her caregiver. When the caregiver returned, she found the vehicle had been stolen with the child inside. She notified law enforcement and an AMBER Alert was issued. An individual later saw the vehicle in a parking lot and recognized it from the alert and noticed that child was alone inside of the car. Law enforcement was notified and the little girl was safely rescued.
October 11, 2012
A 3 year-old little boy was left sleeping in his father’s car while his father went inside a house to pick up another child. When the father came back outside a few minutes later, he saw someone driving away in the vehicle with his son inside. An off duty police officer who heard the AMBER Alert located the car which resulted in the little boy being safely rescued.
August 9, 2012
A 17 year-old girl and her 2 month-old daughter were abducted at gunpoint by the baby girl’s father. Later the 17 year-old saw the AMBER Alert and was able to notify law enforcement of their location. Both the mother and daughter were safely recovered.
June 22, 2012
A 6 year-old boy was abducted by his non-custodial mother when she and several masked men stormed the home of the boy’s grandmother. Law enforcement issued an AMBER Alert which led to a tip indicating someone had recognized the boy at a hotel swimming pool. The boy was located and safely recovered.
June 19, 2012
A 1 year-old baby girl was abducted by her non-custodial father. When the man heard the AMBER Alert on the news, he turned himself in and gave the baby to law enforcement.
June 1, 2012
An adult male travelled from Canada to Kansas in an effort to pick up a 12 year-old girl he met online. The investigation led law enforcement to believe the man and the young girl were travelling to Canada through Michigan. Michigan activated a, AMBER Alert for the girl. The vehicle they were travelling in was spotted, and the girl was safely rescued by law enforcement.
May 19, 2012
A 2 year-old girl and vehicle were reported missing at the same time. Law enforcement determined the incidents were related and activated an AMBER Alert. A lady heard the AMBER Alert and contacted law enforcement when she saw the vehicle. The baby girl was found inside the vehicle and rescued.
March 27, 2012
A 4 year-old was abducted by a 19 year-old man who had been staying with the children’s family. An AMBER Alert was issued and the boy was safely rescued.
March 9, 2012
Two young girls, 3 and 5, were abducted by their mother’s ex-boyfriend. An AMBER Alert was issued. A resident heard the alert and spotted the abductor’s vehicle on the highway. Law enforcement safely rescued both of the children.
March 1, 2012
A 9 year-old child was abducted by her non-custodial mother. Law enforcement activated an AMBER Alert and received a tip from someone who recognized the vehicle. The abductor and young girl were later located in a parking lot and the girl was safely rescued.
February 26, 2012
1 9 month-old baby girl was abducted by a male relative. Law enforcement activated an AMBER Alert. An officer who saw the alert, spotted the suspect’s vehicle and was able to safely rescue the baby girl.
February 22, 2012
A woman was travelling with her 2 sons, 1 and 3, when her car broke down. Someone she didn’t know stopped to help, and she left the boys with him while she found further help. When she returned with a tow truck, the baby boys and their abductor were gone. An AMBER Alert was issued and a woman who knew the abductor later brought the children to law enforcement.
February 22, 2012
Two young girls, 3 and 4, were abducted by their non-custodial parents. The children’s father took them from their grandparent’s home leaving a note saying that they were going to Florida. Law enforcement activated an AMBER Alert. Later, law enforcement in Maryland recognized the vehicle from the alert and conducted a traffic stop. Both abductors were arrested and the girls were safely rescued.
February 17, 2012
An 8 year-old boy was reported missing when he and his mother’s boyfriend went to the store and never returned home. Law enforcement activated an AMBER Alert. A resident saw the alert on an expressway sign and subsequently spotted the vehicle. The boy was safely rescued.
February 16, 2012
A 3 year-old boy was abducted by his mother’s girlfriend, who then brought the little boy to his non-custodial mother. Law enforcement activated an AMBER Alert. The girlfriend later sought treatment at a local hospital for a medical condition, where she was recognized from the alert by hospital staff. They contacted law enforcement, and the girlfriend provided the little boy’s location. The boy was safely rescued.
July 30, 2008
Police say long time felon Lorenzo Curry knew his days as a free man were numbered, so in 2002, he grabbed his girlfriend and their baby and hit the road. For years, they remained on the run, until July 2008, when the U.S. Marshals came storming into their Motown hideout. Curry and his girlfriend were captured without incident, and baby Aaliyah’s grandmother finally got to reunite with her precious 6-year-old granddaughter.
It’s never too late to bring a child home.
June 30, 2008
An AMBER Alert was issued for a 22-month old girl who was taken by her non-custodial father. The suspect had abused the child’s mother and threatened that she would never see the child alive again. He later called the house and threatened to shoot the child and himself. An off-duty officer who was aware of the AMBER Alert noticed the vehicle the suspect was traveling in and contacted law enforcement. The suspect was subsequently shot and killed by law enforcement after displaying a handgun. The child was located in the vehicle unharmed.
One person, in the right place at the right time with the right information saved this baby girl …
June 27, 2008
A 1-year-old boy went missing along with his 16-year-old babysitter, who took the child’s mother’s vehicle without permission. An AMBER Alert was issued. The child was with a family of the suspect who heard the AMBER Alert on a local radio. The family convinced the suspect to leave the child with them for a short period and when the suspect left, they called the Bessemer Police Department who responded to the scene. The child was safely rescued.
One call, just one call …
June 25, 2008
Rock Hill, SC
An 11-month-old girl was taken by her biological father, who was inebriated at the time of the abduction. An AMBER Alert was issued. An individual who heard the AMBER Alert called in information to law enforcement revealing where the suspect was hiding and the child was safely rescued.
One person, forever a child’s hero …
June 23, 2008
Mountain Home, AR
An AMBER Alert was issued for a 16-month old boy who was discovered missing from his daycare when his mother arrived to pick him up. A female had called the daycare earlier in the day identifying herself as the mother, stating she had a family emergency and would be sending her sister to pick the child up. After hearing the AMBER Alert an individual called the Mountain Home Police Department and said that he believed he had information that would lead to the recovery of the boy. He gave law enforcement a description of the suspect and where he might be located. Officers went to the location where the child was safely rescued and the suspect was arrested.
Another child saved, because an ordinary person was aware of an AMBER Alert …
June 15, 2008
Two sisters ages 7 and 8 were last seen outside their father’s home, when they were offered a ride by a stranger. An AMBER Alert was quickly issued. A family member of the abductor heard AMBER Alert and began searching places they knew he frequented, found his vehicle, and called 9-1-1. The children were safely rescued.
You never know when you can make a difference, a difference a child will never forget …
June 12, 2008
An AMBER Alert was issued for a 5-year-old boy who was abducted by his non-custodial father, after a domestic altercation with the child’s mother. The suspect saw the AMBER Alert on the highway signs, called police to negotiate a surrender, which allowed the police to locate the suspect through investigative means. The suspect was arrested and the child was safely rescued.
You never know what will come of an AMBER Alert, this is why this program is invaluable …
April 30, 2008
The parents of a 6-month-old boy lost custody of their son and refused to release the child to the temporary custodian. The father made homicidal threats against the child, the mother, himself, and two others. In addition, the father has a lengthy violent criminal history and both parents are substance abusers. An AMBER Alert was issued. The suspects stated that they felt their world was crashing in on them when they became aware of the AMBER Alert. As soon as they saw pictures of themselves on the news they knew they would not be able to travel anywhere without being recognized. The mother turned herself and the child in to authorities. The father was arrested several hours later.
No one stops to think what would happen if AMBER Alert did not exist, and thankfully we don’t have to …
May 7, 2008
Gwinnett County, GA
A 1-year-old child was abducted by his non-custodial mother. The child has acute asthma and requires several breathing treatments per day. The abductor did not take the child’s emergency medication with her, and due to the poor quality of air and pollen count the child was believed to be in extreme danger. An AMBER Alert was issued. An individual recognized the mother from the AMBER Alert and contacted law enforcement. The child was safely rescued.
Another person armed with the right information, in the right place at the right time saves a child’s life …
April 29, 2008
A 3-year-old boy was abducted by his biological father, who has a history of drug abuse and domestic violence. The child has asthma and is required to take medication every six hours. An AMBER Alert was issued because the child was believed to be in danger and did not have any medication. When the suspect saw a television broadcast of the AMBER Alert he turned himself in into law enforcement and the child was safely rescued.
An AMBER Alert can serve as a slap of reality …
April 21, 2008
A 3-year-old boy was abducted from his daycare by his non-custodial mother, who has a history of drug abuse. The abductor also had an outstanding warrant for grand larceny and was known by local law enforcement due to her involvement and subsequent arrests for assault type offenses. An AMBER Alert was quickly issued. The mother heard the AMBER Alert, contacted law enforcement, and the child was safely rescued.
The quicker an AMBER Alert is issued, the quicker a child can be brought home …
April 12, 2008
An AMBER Alert was issued for a 15-month-old child who was taken by his father after a violent confrontation with the child’s mother. An individual recognized the vehicle after hearing the AMBER Alert on the radio, and followed the vehicle until police were able to intercept them. The child was safely rescued.
A complete stranger forever changes the fate of a small boy, the right information is all you need to save a child’s life …
March 24, 2008
The mother of 3-year-old and 6-year-old girls was in the bathroom of her residence while the children were in another room with the mother’s roommate. The roommate asked the children if they wanted to go to the park; however, the mother told him not to take them. When she came out of the bathroom, she discovered that the children and the subject were gone. An AMBER Alert was quickly issued. An individual who saw the AMBER Alert on the television recognized the children and suspect walking down the road. Law enforcement was contacted and the children were safely rescued.
One person in the right place at the right time, with the right information and these little girls are brought home safely, not all guardian angels need wings …
February 10, 2008
A 2-month-old boy was abducted from his home by his non-custodial father, who had a long criminal history of felony drug abuse. When the father fled in a vehicle, the child only had a t-shirt and blanket, and was not placed in a car seat. Because of the father’s drug history and 15 degree weather, law enforcement believed the child was in danger. An AMBER Alert was issued. Within one hour of issuing the AMBER Alert, law enforcement received a tip regarding the location of the child. The child was safely rescued and returned to his mother.
One tip, just one, always call, even if you think it might not mean anything, you never know when it will mean something …
February 4, 2008
El Paso, TX
Two step-siblings ages 5 and 9, who had expressed interest in going to Juarez to visit the biological mother of one of the children, left their home in El Paso, TX. An AMBER Alert was issued. A concerned individual spotted the children and contacted law enforcement because the children looked out of place. The individual claimed that an unknown party picked up the children in their vehicle and drove away. The children reached Juarez and were taken into custody by the Juarez Police Department. When Juarez law enforcement observed the AMBER Alert on television they contacted the Sheriff’s Office where the Alert had been issued. The children were safely rescued.
If you child was missing, you would want someone to notice a child looking ‘out of place’, because you never know when noticing a child may save their life …
January 30, 2008
El Paso, TX
A 3-year-old girl was violently taken by her biological mother and the mother’s boyfriend. An AMBER Alert was issued. The abductor and associate observed the AMBER Alert on television, contacted law enforcement, turned themselves in and returned the child. The child was turned over to Child Protective Services who in turn returned the child to the biological father.
If all an AMBER Alert does is scare an abductor into realizing the gravity of the situation they have created, then it has done enough …
January 20, 2008
An 11-year-old boy’s non-custodial mother went to his grandmother’s home with the intent to abduct the child and his 14-year old brother. The non-custodial mother and her associate assaulted the child’s grandmother and uncle, then abducted the 11-year-old child. An AMBER Alert was quickly activated. The abductor became aware of the AMBER Alert and contacted law enforcement. The child was safely rescued.
No child should be ripped out of the arms of the people that love them …
January 10, 2008
Two sisters ages 5 and 8 were taken by their mother, who in phone conversations with law enforcement told them she would cause harm to the children. Law enforcement issued an AMBER Alert after receiving the threats to the welfare of the children. A gas station attendant in Niagara Falls, Ontario heard the AMBER Alert and noticed a woman with children matching the description. He contacted law enforcement and they were able to apprehend the mother and safely rescue the children.
You never know when you will be in the right place at the right time, so stay current on AMBER Alerts …
January 3, 2008
Salt Lake City, UT
Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office issued an AMBER Alert for a 3-year-old girl after she was taken by her non-custodial mother. Detectives believed the child was in danger because she had been missing for four days and the victim’s mother is a heroin addict and had been charged before with child endangerment. The mother and child were staying with residents at an apartment when they saw the AMBER Alert on TV. The residents confronted the suspect and as she was fleeing the apartment with the child, they called the police. When the police learned the mother had fled, an area search began and they were found at a nearby convenience store.
The children are who we protect first and foremost, Thank God not everyone has forgotten this …