How the AMBER Alert Program Evolved

How the AMBER Alert Program Evolved
The AMBER Alert program came into fruition after the kidnapping and brutal murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who was kidnapped in Arlington Texas while riding her bike on January 13, 1989. A neighbor who heard Amber scream called the police and was able to provide officers with a detailed description of the kidnapper's truck. Unfortunately there was little that police could do to help Amber when the incident was dispatched to officers in the area, unless one of the officers actually spotted the truck.

Four days later, Amber Hagerman’s lifeless body was recovered, less than four miles from where she was abducted while riding her bike. Currently Amber Hagerman’s murder is still an active cold case. The man who took Amber has never been identified or charged with her kidnapping or murder. If anything constructive can come out of something as evil as the kidnapping and murder of a beautiful and innocent little girl, it would have to be the AMBER Alert Program.

The AMBER Alert program was founded as a direct result to the frustration Amber Hagerman’s mother experienced in the hours after her daughter was reported missing and abducted. The information about her daughter’s disappearance took hours to actually reach the public. Anyone who would have seen her in that pickup truck would not even know she was in danger.

The people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area began inquiring on how the public could help when a child is abducted, as did local radio broadcasters and radio stations. Soon the AMBER Alert program evolved when radio stations agreed to broadcast information from the police over their radio waves when a child in the area has been abducted. This way everyone in the listening area could help look for the kidnapped child and the kidnapper. This would mean the information is available to the public early on rather than people finding out on the evening or late night news.

The AMBER Alert program developed in 1996 is strikingly similar to the Nation’s Emergency Broadcast System. When authorities determine a child has been kidnapped they activate the AMBER Alert program by providing specific details about the kidnapping to the media who provides that information to the public sector.

People in the listening area are asked to be on the lookout for the child, the kidnapper, and the vehicle the kidnapper used. This affords thousands of eyes looking for an endangered child. This information continues to be broadcast at specific intervals while an AMBER Alert is active, until the child is located, or the AMBER Alert is cancelled by authorities.

The AMBER Alert program is now a nationwide program and uses all forms of broadcast media including the internet and wireless alerts sent to phones for those who subscribe to the free service. To date the AMBER Alert program according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has helped find 554 children safely.

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