Crime News: Launched on January 13, 1996, the AMBER Alert system issues media alerts on radio, television, highway signs, wireless devices such as mobile phones, and over the Internet when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts provide information about the child and the abductor that can lead to the child’s recovery, such as a physical description of each and a description of the abductor’s vehicle. The AMBER Alert program has helped recover 495 abducted children nationwide. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada have AMBER Alert plans, and 2 Mexican border states have AMBER Alert Coordinators.
Managed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) with the support of OJJDP, the AMBER Alert initiative sponsors a broad array of activities, including annual national training conferences and local and regional training on topics such as Child Abduction Response Teams (CARTs) and investigative techniques.
Efforts are underway to bring the AMBER Alert system into Mexico through the AMBER Alert Southern Border Initiative. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports that Mexico accounts for 47 percent of all international child abductions from the United States. More than 100 local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement officers from the United States and Mexico met last year in San Diego, CA, to train and discuss efforts to stop child abductions in both countries. On May 13, 2009, Baja California became the first state in Mexico to join the AMBER Alert network. A second state, Tamaulipas, appointed an AMBER Alert Coordinator immediately after the 2009 AMBER Alert Symposium.
In 2009, under a cooperative agreement with Fox Valley Technical College, OJJDP provided 10 CART training and technical assistance programs to 563 law enforcement and child protection professionals. Participating agencies were encouraged to review existing policies and practices and ways in which interagency and regional cooperation could improve casework involving missing and abducted children. Participants received guidance on creating memorandums of understanding, resource inventories, and action plans to use when they returned home to guide them through the development of a CART, thereby building a foundation for improving response capacity, resource coordination, and child-recovery capabilities in their jurisdictions.
AMBER Alert in Indian Country
Through the AMBER Alert in Indian Country initiative, OJP initially developed AMBER Alert plans in 13 pilot tribal communities. Through the expansion of the AMBER Alert in Indian Country initiative, OJP provided training and technical assistance to additional tribes, and now a total of 33 tribes have AMBER Alert plans. Assessments of capabilities have been conducted at all sites, with the focus on building capacity within each community to respond to and investigate reports of endangered, missing, or abducted children. OJJDP provided a range of training and technical assistance in fiscal year 2009 to build on these capabilities.
To date, more than 700 tribal community members, government leaders, first responders, child protection officials, and law enforcement officials have attended training and technical assistance programs to improve skills and capacity related to a wide range of child protection needs. Interest in the AMBER Alert in Indian Country initiative continues to grow, and to date there have been approximately 50 requests for technical assistance from tribal communities for FY 2010. OJJDP has established the goal of implementing AMBER Alert plans in an additional 25 tribal communities in 2010. To read recent AMBER Alert success stories, click here.