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AMBER Alerts instrumental in saving missing children – Times-Herald

When a child goes missing, the county officials go into action, because every second counts to find that young person.

Thanks to the creation of the AMBER Alert 20 years ago this month, the California Highway Patrol, in partnership with multiple agencies and the public, has helped reunite 376 missing children with their families.

“We’re very successful because we’re all watchdogs in our community,” CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray said Wednesday at a press conference at the agency’s Sacramento headquarters.

Officially titled “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response Alert,” the AMBER Alert is part of the nationwide AMBER Plan. The plan was developed in 1996 after the kidnapping and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas. Texas officials wanted to create a way to quickly notify others of the emergency and hopefully bring the kidnapped children home just as quickly. They collaborated with the media in the effort.

In California, the AMBER Alert program was established in 1999 and was implemented statewide in 2002. Appointed statewide coordinator of CHP Alert.

Ray described the system as “one of the most effective tools for finding a missing person.”

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Pascoe, CHP headquarters in Sacramento, explains how AMBER Alerts work. (Photo by Kimberly K. Fu, The Reporter)

The CHP issues an AMBER Alert at the request of a law enforcement agency investigating the abduction of a child or endangered person.

“Every second counts when a child is kidnapped,” he emphasized.

How it works is simple.

When a child 17 years of age or younger or with a mental or physical disability goes missing, the local law enforcement agency contacts the CHP. Officials then confirm that the victim was abducted or otherwise transported, is in danger of serious bodily injury or death, and that available information, if shared with the public, could assist in their safe recovery.

Ray advised that alert distribution methods have evolved to include the use of the Wireless Emergency Alerts program, which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission; California Department of Transportation changeable message signs on highways; and @CHPAlerts on Twitter.

The California Lottery displays alert information about digital terminal signs and prints it on lottery tickets.

Dr. Duane Spencer, a forensic dental consultant with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, credited the AMBER Plan and alerts with saving 1,114 children nationwide.

“Someone in the community took notice and took action,” Success said.

California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Director Tony Tavares agreed. The innovative alerts, he said, come at a crucial time in investigations and are an important factor in finding the missing. Armed with readily available information, he said, “people can immediately engage” in searches and help produce positive results.

In August 2002, he recalled, two young girls were kidnapped in northern Los Angeles County. A Caltrans employee and his co-workers were discussing the matter when he saw the suspect’s vehicle. He called authorities and the CHP gave chase. After a shootout in which the suspect was killed, the girls, both unharmed, were rescued.

“Please continue to be vigilant, continue to work with the CHP,” Tavares encouraged, adding that Caltrans will also continue to disseminate information. “And we hope to continue to save more lives.”

Meanwhile, Joe Berry, president and CEO of the California Broadcasters Association, said law enforcement’s partnership with the media helped develop an interagency trust that has grown stronger over time. The equalization will continue, he said, the dissemination efforts will increase.

For more information on AMBER alerts, visit www.chp.ca.gov/news-alerts/amber-alert.

AMBER Alerts instrumental in saving missing children – Times-Herald Source link AMBER Alerts instrumental in saving missing children – Times-Herald

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