Public Involvement Key Factor in AMBER Alert System
The Kentucky State Police (KSP) joined law enforcement agencies nationwide in marking the Jan. 13 anniversary of the disappearance of Amber Hagerman, whose name has become synonymous with the search and rescue of abducted children.
AMBER Alert, the nationally recognized emergency notification system, was named in honor of the nine-year-old Texas girl who was kidnapped 10 years ago while riding her bicycle near her home and later found brutally murdered.
Mark L. Miller, commissioner of the Kentucky State Police, which coordinates activation of the AMBER Alert in Kentucky, reminded Kentucky citizens of the integral role they can have in making the system work.
“Citizen watchfulness has already led to rescues of unharmed children in Kentucky and other states since the AMBER Alert was devised,” said Miller. “Citizen involvement is vital in providing information that law enforcement agencies need to quickly find children who are in imminent danger. Since 2003, Kentucky has had 12 AMBER Alerts involving 15 children, all of whom were located unharmed.”
David and Melissa Arnold of Danville know all too well the terror of having a child missing. Their three-year-old daughter disappeared in December while in the care of the family babysitter and was returned safely 10 hours after the activation of an AMBER Alert in Kentucky.
“When your child is missing, you’re so aware that every minute counts,” said David Arnold. “I know the issuing of the AMBER Alert played a role in our daughter’s safe return. It’s better to have [the system] conceived and in place and working for us. So many people called us during those terrifying hours and wanted to help. The AMBER Alert system enables friends and even complete strangers to do that.”
America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert evolved after Amber Hagerman’s abduction as law enforcement officials sought the help of local media and private citizens in the transmission of information leading to the safe return of abducted children.
“Time is the enemy when it comes to finding missing children,” said KSP Maj. Mitch Bailey, coordinator of the state’s AMBER Alert system. “AMBER Alert allows the public to partner with law enforcement using Web-based technology to provide immediate and detailed information concerning the victim and the perpetrator. Last year’s addition of the AMBER Alert portal system expanded the state’s child kidnapping alert network to make information even more accessible to citizens.”
Kentucky’s AMBER Alert system was activated in 2003 to relay emergency information to law enforcement and rescue officials and to broadcasters of television and radio. With the addition of the AMBER Alert Portal, the notification network now includes cell phones, beepers and e-mail, as well as other forms of electronic communication. So far Kentucky has more than 6,800 subscribers to the portal.
Gov. Ernie Fletcher officially activated the new portal system Aug. 14, 2005, before the start of the AMBER Alert Portal System 300 IRL race at the Kentucky Speedway, calling it “the nation’s most sophisticated AMBER Alert system.”
Information provided through the portal includes a description of the alleged abductor, the vehicle and license plate number, and a description of the abducted child. The portal also maintains on its Web site a geo-specific map showing an expanding area of interest based on the fastest driving routes from the abduction site.
“The AMBER Alert Portal system allows more people to know what to look for and where,” said Bailey. “The greater the citizen participation, the greater our chances of finding an abducted child.”
Citizens are encouraged to subscribe to receive the free alert notifications at http://www.KentuckyAMBERAlert.com.
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