The AMBER Alert System
What is it?
The AMBER Alert System is a child rescue organisation which acts as an early warning system for the public when a child goes missing. AMBER stands for "America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response".
It was set up as a result of a call to a radio station in 1997 in Dallas, Texas, from a concerned member of the public who had heard about the tragedy of Amber Hagerman. Nine-year-old Amber had been riding her bike in January 1996 when she was kidnapped by a man who bundled her into his pickup truck. Her body was found four days later, four miles away. Her throat had been cut: she had been murdered. Her murderer has never been caught.
The concerned caller who contacted the Dallas radio station suggested that in future, in similar cases, radio stations could broadcast repeat bulletins about recently abducted children. It was hoped that such a move might raise public awareness and increase the chances of the child being sighted or released promptly.
The Dallas Amber Plan, which was initiated in July 1997, has since won wide support in America and grown rapidly. Other countries have begun to adopt the AMBER alert system too. In the UK the scheme was started in 2002 by Sussex Constabulary and has since been adopted by many other counties in England and Wales.
How does it work?
Once a child has been reported missing, and the situation has been assessed professionally according to the AMBER criteria, AMBER alerts are broadcast on TV and radio, interrupting programmes if necessary. AMBER alerts can also be shown on motorway signs, printed on tickets, sent to mobile phones in the immediate area and transmitted on the Internet. The system works by harnessing the power of the public to assist the police in "keeping their eyes peeled" for the missing child.
How successful is it?
In 2004 alone 71 children were rescued due to AMBER alert initiatives. Since the programme began over 200 children have been recovered. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that over 4,000 children are abducted by strangers in the US every year. Few AMBER alerts are issued each year and the criteria for issuing them are arguably stringent. Defenders of the criteria state that this is necessary as too many AMBER alerts will de-sensitize the public to child abductions.
Quick Quiz: Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.
1. AMBER stands for "America’s Missing: Broadcast __________ Response".
2. It was hoped that such a move might __________ public awareness and increase the chances of the child being sighted or released promptly.
3. In the UK the scheme was started in 2002 by __________ Constabulary.
4. The system works by harnessing the power of the public to assist the police in "keeping their __________ peeled" for the missing child.
5. __________, statistics indicate that over 4,000 children are abducted by strangers in the US every year.
6. Few AMBER alerts are issued each year and the __________ for issuing them are arguably stringent.