Since being launched 10 years ago, 70 AMBER Alerts have been issued in Arizona. All but one – the ongoing Jhessye Shockley case – was resolved successfully through a partnership between local radio and television broadcasters, law enforcement, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Arizona Department of Transportation, and the public to recover abducted children.
AMBER, which stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response,” was launched in Arizona in 2002 as part of a nationwide push to establish the safety net.
The activation system uses the Emergency Alert System as the backbone through all local radio and televisions in the state. Pertinent information is posted over Arizona highways by ADOT. AMBER Alerts are sent quickly utilizing email and text messaging. The oversight committee is comprised of law enforcement and representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Arizona Broadcasters Association and the Attorney General’s Office.
“This is a partnership-based system that relies on collaboration between the public and private sectors, as well as interest from members of the community” said Art Brooks, president and CEO of the Arizona Broadcasters Association, who chairs the Arizona AMBER Alert oversight committee. “Thankfully, Arizona has had a positive record in recovering abducted children – that’s a trend we expect to continue into the future.”
The Arizona Department of Public Safety is a partner in the operation of the AMBER Alert system. The DPS duty office is specifically tasked with operating AMBER Alert. Each law enforcement agency must be able to answer key questions in order to activate an AMBER Alert notification. For example: Is this an abduction of a child under the age of 18? Does the abduction pose an immediate credible threat of serious bodily injury or death to the child? Are detectives convinced the child is not a runaway and the abduction is not the result of a child custody dispute?
Knowing that time is of the essence in child abduction cases, DPS-trained personnel work with reporting police agencies to make sure that if an AMBER Alert is issued, the most accurate information is put out.
“DPS officers take their role very seriously in their operation of the AMBER Alert system. In the past 10 years, this has been an important tool in the investigation of child abduction cases. We commend our partners, the Arizona Broadcasters Association, the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Office in making AMBER Alert a successful statewide program that directly links law enforcement with the community,” said Robert Halliday, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, since its creation in 1996, the AMBER Alert program has helped to find and safely recover more than 490 abducted children. Today, all 50 states have AMBER Alert plans.
On Jan. 13, 1996, Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered. The AMBER Alert network was created after her tragic death. AMBER Alerts are emergency messages broadcast when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts include information about the child and abductor that could lead to the child’s recovery, such as physical description and information about the abductor’s vehicle. The AMBER Alert program began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed up with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children.