Amber Alerts: Do They Save Lives?

By: Mike Tuttle - July 14, 2014

In 1996, nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas. Her body was found four days later in a storm drainage ditch. Her murder has never been solved.

In the years that followed, Amber’s family and friends worked tirelessly, not only to try to find her murderer, but to help ensure that such a thing never happens again. That very year, the basic idea and structure for Amber Alerts was in place, but was being handled manually. In 1998, the first fully automated Alert Notiication System came online.

Since then, the Amber Alert system has expanded with every technological opportunity it can find. Amber alerts are distributed via smartphone apps, text messages, electronic traffic signs on highways, commercial and satellite radio stations, and even on electronic billboards of participating companies.

The term “Amber Alert” has been modified. While its roots will always be with Amber Hagerman, it is now said to stand for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response”.

But does it work?

Some Amber Alerts are issued due to custodial issues. A non-custodial parent fails to bring a child back home when arranged. If the other criteria for an Amber Alert are present, police may issue the alert.

The criteria are:

1. Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place.
2. The child must be at risk of serious injury or death.
3. There must be sufficient descriptive information of child, captor, or captor’s vehicle to issue an alert.
4. The child must be under 18 years of age.

In the case of a non-custodial parent issue, if that parent has a history of violence, is believed to be under the influence of drugs, or some other reason that is determined to put the child at risk, an Alert may be issued.

Other cases include children who were in carjacked vehicles, as well as outright abductions like Hagerman’s.

The program is considered very effective. It has helped save the lives of 495 children nationwide. One of the goals of the program is not only to respond very quickly in the event of an abduction, but to discourage such crimes from ever occurring because the odds of getting away with it are getting slimmer as the avenues for Alerts become ubiquitous. If a child’s description and other information are spread so quickly that they outrun the perpetrator, that narrow window to save a life becomes more effective.

Image via AmberAlert.Gov

Mike Tuttle

About the Author

Mike TuttleWriter. Google+ Writer for WebProNews.

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  • Collette Johanssen

    Indeed traumatic experience, I can’t imagine myself being abducted. If that incident will come i already have an application that will help me and my family to keep track on me. It’s an application that will route to 911 and help me in a way, just simply click this Link:

  • Nunya

    One major flaw in this system: Parental abduction is the most common – not sexually related AT ALL – yet, if someone is charged with a kidnapping, they are automatically placed on the sex offender list. Knowing this fact alone, you CANNOT tell me that this whole Amber Alert and Adam Walsh act aren’t driven by money. It is this fear mongering system that keeps kids from playing outside and walking and riding their bikes to school anymore. A “textbook” white van, puppy/candy/stuffed animal abduction is so rare, it shouldn’t even be counted in the statistics. It’s usually the parents and if not the parents, a close acquaintance of the family. If you really think there is some letch waiting outside your kids’ school for your child, you have a better chance of winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning a hundred times in a row.