KSP offers tips to help prevent child abductions.
Each year, AMBER Alert Awareness Day falls in January and the Kentucky State Police (KSP) urge all Kentuckians to participate in this emergency notification system designed to help locate abducted children.
In 2007, five AMBER Alerts were activated in Kentucky. All of the children were located unharmed.
“Amber Alerts form a powerful, national network that is one of the most effective tools employed to protect children,” says KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer. “Since its start in 1998, the system has proven its worth by contributing to the safe return of nearly 400 children throughout the U.S.”
AMBER Alert, which stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, was named in honor of a nine-year-old Texas girl, who was kidnapped in 1996 near her home and later found murdered. It uses radio and television news broadcasts and Web-based technology to provide immediate and detailed information about the victim and abductor.
“Time is critical when it comes to finding abducted children,” says KSP Major Mitch Bailey, coordinator of Kentucky’s AMBER Alert system. “When a child’s life is in danger, spreading the word quickly can often mean the difference between life and death.”
According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, 74 percent of children who are kidnapped and later found murdered are killed within the first three hours after being abducted. “That’s why public participation in the AMBER Alert system is so important,” says Bailey. “It increases the ‘eyes and ears’ of law enforcement over a wide area.”
The AMBER Alert program also acts as a deterrent, notes Bailey. It sends a strong message to predators that crimes against children are intolerable and that communities have the power to mobilize great resources and concentrate efforts to rescue abducted children and apprehend their abductors.
“If you witness a child abduction, call 9-1-1 immediately to report it quickly,” adds Bailey. “Be sure to make note of important information such as the physical characteristics of the child and suspect, the make and model of any vehicles involved, including license plate numbers if possible, and the precise location of the abduction.”
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. Since then, Kentucky has had 19 AMBER Alerts involving 25 children, all of whom were located unharmed.
In 2005, the system became even more accessible to citizens with the addition of the AMBER Alert Portal, which includes cell phones, beepers and e-mail, as well as other forms of electronic communication. Currently, Kentucky has almost 12,000 subscribers to the portal.
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.
Citizens may subscribe to the portal at http://www.KentuckyAMBERAlert.com to receive free alert notifications.
“By actively participating in the AMBER Alert program, private citizens can really make a difference,” notes Commissioner Brewer. “Their input acts as a tremendous force multiplier for law enforcement officers and helps contribute to the successful recovery of missing and abducted children. The greater the public participation, the greater the chances of finding an abducted child unharmed.”
KSP offers the following tips to help parents keep their children safe:
- Know where your children are at all times. Know the names of their friends and their addresses and phone numbers.
- Have your children check in with you when they arrive or depart from a location or when there is a change of plans.
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, whether it is running or not.
- Remind children never to hitchhike.
- Screen babysitters and caregivers. Check out references with other families.
- If your child is missing from home, search the house thoroughly including closets; piles of laundry; in and under beds; inside large appliances and vehicles; including trunks; anywhere a child could crawl or hide. Search the yard surrounding your home and those of your neighbors.
- If you still cannot find your child, call your law enforcement agency immediately. When a child is missing, there is no waiting period necessary before a report can be taken.
- When you call law enforcement, provide your child’s name, date of birth, weight, height and any other identifiers such as eyeglasses and braces. Tell them when you noticed the child was missing and what clothing they were wearing (include colors; brand names; rips and patterns; and accessories, such as barrettes, ribbons, earrings, cell phones, beepers, purses, toys, etc.). Provide names of any medication the child takes, when it was last taken and when the next dosage is due.
- Look around your home for clues to your child’s whereabouts or destination of travel. Try not to disturb anything in the child’s room that could aid in locating them.
- Have a recent head-and-shoulders, school portrait-type color photo of your child in which the face is clearly seen. If possible, it should be in a digitized format on a compact disk (CD) to minimize the time required to distribute it to law enforcement agencies. The photo should be updated at least every six months for children six years of age or younger or once a year for those older.
- If your child disappears in a store, first notify the store manager or security office, then immediately call your local law enforcement agency.
- Teach your children their complete name, age, address and phone number at an early age.
- Teach your children how to operate a telephone/cell phone and how to dial 9-1-1.
- Teach your children never to give out personal information on the phone or online.
- Teach them never to tell anyone they are home alone.
- Teach your children never to answer the door without an adult present.