California joins other states nationwide in recognizing Jan. 13 as National AMBER Alert Awareness Day, a day to acknowledge the collaborative efforts and successes of the AMBER Alert program to assist in the recovery of abducted children. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the abduction of Amber Hagerman and the program that was named in her memory.
In 1996, 9-year-old Hagerman of Arlington, Texas was abducted and later found murdered. At the time, there was no system in place to inform and alert the public of the abduction. Residents contacted area radio stations in the wake of this tragedy and suggested that a special alert be in place for child abductions. Working with local law enforcement agencies, radio and television stations in Texas developed a plan using emergency broadcast systems across media outlets to alert the public of child abductions; these alerts became known as AMBER Alerts.
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Today, there are AMBER Alert programs in all 50 states. California’s AMBER Alert program, the California Child Safety AMBER Network, which is coordinated by the California Highway Patrol, was implemented in August 2002. To date, there have been 213 children safely recovered following 174 AMBER Alert activations in California.
“The overwhelming success of this program is the direct result of a partnership between government, law enforcement, broadcast media and the public,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow.
The goal of an AMBER Alert is to provide immediate information to the public about the most serious child abduction cases via widespread media broadcasts and other means to solicit help in the safe and swift return of an abducted child. The program continues to grow, taking advantage of new technology and other means to expand the way the public is alerted to a child abduction.
For example, this year, the CHP and the California State Lottery Commission have teamed up to display AMBER Alerts anywhere lottery tickets are sold. Additionally, AMBER Alerts will be available on Facebook. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, users of the social media platform will be able to sign up for AMBER Alerts in their state/region.
“It is important that we use every communications tool at our disposal to get the word out in a timely manner in a child abduction case,” added Commissioner Farrow. “Every second counts.”