What Are Amber Alerts And When Are They Used?

Amber Alerts are rarely issued. Before complaining, it is important to understand that in the rare instances that they are issued they are vital in the recovery of an abducted child.

What Is An Amber Alert?
The Amber Alert program (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) is an urgent bulletin system that was initially established in 1996 in Texas after a nine-year-old girl, Amber Hagerman, went missing. She was riding her bicycle in the parking lot of an abandoned grocery store near her home when she was abducted. Four days later her body was found less than five miles from the parking lot where she had last been seen riding her bike. Her murder remains unsolved.

Shortly after Amber’s funeral, Diane Simone, a mother herself, called into a local radio station with an idea. She figured if local media and the National Weather Service were able to issue alerts for severe weather, why not do the same for abducted children?

The idea caught on.

Amber Alerts have since been adopted in Canada and are only activated only in the most dangerous child abduction cases when time is of the essence.

The alerts use electronic highway signs, designated local broadcasters and wireless signals to announce the name and a description of the abducted child, plus descriptions of any vehicle suspected of being involved in the crime.

Police agencies often receive reports of missing children, and police decide on a case-by-case basis whether issuing an Amber Alert would assist in the recovery of an abducted child.

While criteria for issuing an Amber Alert may vary from province to province in Canada, and state to state in the US, basic requirements include:

– The child is under the age of 18
– There is a belief that the child has been abducted
– There is a belief that the child is in imminent danger
– There is information to be released that may help locate the child and/or the abductor (Example: description of the child, the suspect or the vehicle driven by the abductor)

Note: Amber Alerts may also be issued for vulnerable adults who have gone missing (e.g. elderly adults, or adults living with an intellectual disability).

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