Introduction by Marc Klaas

The Amber Alert is a critical missing child response program that utilizes the resources of law enforcement and media to notify the public when children are kidnapped by predators. Although the scope of the Amber Alert varies, the criteria for activation are fairly consistent. Whether it is a local, regional or statewide program, law enforcement activates an Amber Alert by notifying broadcast media with relevant identifying and case information when circumstances meets the following criteria:

  • The missing child is of a pre-determined age;
  • The law enforcement agency believes the child has been kidnapped;
  • The agency believes the missing child is under threat of serious bodily harm or death.

Once they receive the Amber Alert radio and television stations interrupt regularly scheduled programming to notify the public that a child has been kidnapped. Because 95% of all people driving in their cars listen to the radio, this is an extremely effective way of providing descriptions of the child, the kidnapper, vehicles or accomplices.

Besides turning the public into instant investigators when children are kidnapped, benefits of the Amber Alert include:

  • It is free;
  • It encourages participation between natural adversaries, law enforcement and media by drawing on their inherent strengths;
  • It promotes accountability by creating the foundation of a comprehensive missing child protocol;
  • It is an effective time critical response to kidnappers who can disappear with children at the rate of a mile per minute;
  • It sends a powerful message to wanna-be kidnappers that this is a community that cares about and protects children;
  • It saves lives.

Initially prompted by citizen concerns following the tragic 1996 kidnapping and murder of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas the concept has been embraced by all segments of society. A sampling of the pro-active, diversified citizens inspired to implement variations on the Amber Alert include:

  • Mrs. Robin Trumbull, a young mother with a strong social conscience created the statewide Michigan Amber Alert after hearing about it at a KlaasKids Foundation sponsored town hall meeting.
  • To give meaning to the death of their kidnapped daughter Traci, Chris and Terry Conrad initiated the localized Corcoran, California TRACI Alert.
  • To create a legacy in the name of her kidnapped daughter, Colleen Nick inspired the Arkansas’ statewide Morgan Nick Alert.
  • A sense of duty drove Officer John Goad of the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons to begin the regional NC CAN Alert System.

Because progress in the effort to recover kidnapped children is glacial, great ideas like the Amber Alert should be enthusiastically embraced, supported and promoted whenever possible. Had the Amber Alert existed when Polly was kidnapped in 1993, she might very well be alive today. Although law enforcement had her killer in their custody within sixty minutes of the crime, they helped him pull his car out of a ditch instead of arrest him because they were unaware that a child had been kidnapped.

Our goal is to protect every child with one of the most brilliant ideas yet devised in the battle to recover kidnapped children. So, in order to remain current we encourage law enforcement agencies, broadcast media and the public to provide updated information that we may include in our comparative analysis of the Amber Alert.

See also the Beyond Missing site for immediate missing child information and help: http://www.beyondmissing.com/

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