The Amber alert system came into fruition after the kidnapping and brutal murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who lived in Arlington Texas. Amber Hagerman was riding her bike on January 13, 1989, when she disappeared. A neighbor hearing Amberís screams called police. Although police received a good description of the abductorís vehicle there was little police could do to help Amber unless an officer saw the truck.
Four days later, Amberís brutally murdered body is recovered, located less than four miles from where her kidnapper grabbed her off her bike. Amber Hagermanís murder is unsolved, and a child killer remains unaccountable.
Yet, if something constructive can come out of something as evil as the kidnapping and murder of an innocent child, it would have to be the Amber Alert System, developed after Amber's relatives and friends began an inquiry into why this happened. The community wanted to know how to prevent another child from the same fate.
People living in Amberís community began talking with local radio stations inquiring about the broadcasting of relevant information for any child reported abducted. A system strikingly similar to our Emergency Broadcast System was developed, and named the Amber alert system. Radio stations jumped on the Amber alert bandwagon, and quickly agreed to help.
Initially, in an Amber alert situation, police contacted radio stations to trigger an Amber Alert, and provided the information available regarding the kidnapper, child, and if possible the vehicle used in the abduction. Radio stations would then broadcast this same information repeatedly until the child is located or law enforcement cancelled the Amber Alert.
In 2003, President Bush signed the National Amber Alert Program into law. Sadly, even though the Amber Alert Program has been a nationwide program since 2003, many states continue to struggle with outdated emergency broadcast systems, and implementing the proper procedures necessary to make the Amber Alert program successful.
One of the biggest struggles the Amber alert system has faced across the nation is defining the qualifying criteria necessary to activate the Amber alert system. Although witnessed child abduction is universal criteria to activate the Amber alert system, the difficulty remains in what to do when a child disappears without a witness to report what happened.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has three important criteria considered necessary before activating an Amber Alert. The first is police can confirmation the child is a victim of kidnapping. Second, police must believe the missing child is in grave danger of physical harm. Third, police must have information about the child, the kidnapper, and the vehicle.
Once kidnapped, besides the kidnapper, time is the worst enemy a child faces. An Amber alertís can only help a child once the information is available to the public. Essentially, an Amber alert multiplies the amount of eyes looking for the abducted child. Anyone in the community might spot the missing child, the abductor, or the abductorís vehicle.
When the local Amber alert system activates please listen carefully to the information provided, and if you observe the child, abductor, or vehicle described, please call 911 immediately to report the sighting. Do not approach the abductor as he may have a weapon and has already shown he or she is mentally unstable to kidnap a child.
The Amber Alert Plan is proving to be a child's best hope in the event of abduction. However, in order for the Amber Alert Plan to be successful it is up to you and me in the community to watch out for our most precious commodity, our children. Currently, the Amber Alert Plan has helped recover over 450 children since its origin.