FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!


ESS Rollbar Tactical Sunglass - ESS Eyepro
The new ESS Rollbar Tactical interchangeable-lens sunglass has a broad wrap that...

Top News

An Alert System To Break Up Abductions

September 01, 2001  | 

WASHINGTON, D.C.(Washington Post; Sept. 10)

Just three hours after 5-year-old Maria Cuellar was lured into a stolen ambulance and kidnapped in April, she was returned unharmed. For that, her Houston family can thank another Texas girl who was not so fortunate: Nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted while bicycling near her grandparents' Arlington home in 1996 and did not come back alive.

Her body was found four days later ina creek bed. Her throat had been cut.

Out of Amber's death came a new way to alert the public quickly when a child has been snatched -- often within the crucial first hour or so. The system, named for Amber, utilizes the same emergency broadcast network that radio and TV stations use to warn of dangerous weather and other potentially catastrophic conditions.

Four states and nearly two dozen cities and communities have adopted the AMBER Plan, as it's called. Now it's coming to the nation's capital.

At a news conference today launching the Washington area effort, organizers -- among them the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and area law enforcement officials -- plan to announce that two TV stations and about a dozen radio stations have signed on to participate. Participants include WTTG-TV (Channel 5) and WJLA-TV (Channel 7) and radio stations WTOP and WMAL.

"We're literally putting millions of eyes on the road looking for that abducted child or abductor," said Dee Anderson, a sheriff in the Dallas area who helped start the AMBER system in 1997. "It's a tremendously powerful tool."

While the program has run into controversy in some places, it also has been credited with the return of 16 children. The Alexandria-based national center for missing children plans to use the Washington program as its nationwide model.

About 4,500 children are kidnapped by people other than family members each year in the United States, a number dwarfed by the 354,000 abducted by relatives and the 450,000 who run away, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

In the grim business of finding those taken by strangers, getting the word out fast can make the difference. Police say their chances of finding a child alive are best within the first few hours of an abduction.

Broadcasters came up with the idea of using the Emergency Alert System, which airs bulletins warning communities about severe weather and other potential emergencies.

Along the way, it has attracted some criticism. In Texas, for example, organizers tightened the criteria to get on the air after radio listeners complained of too many alerts related to child custody disputes.

Some broadcasters have been slow to sign on, saying they are reluctant to turn over airtime to police agencies. Others say that the Emergency Alert System should be reserved for community-wide dangers and that broadcasting abduction alerts opens the door to demands by others for a share of airtime.

Indeed, a Dallas group now wants to use the Emergency Alert System to broadcast descriptions of missing Alzheimer's patients.

Law enforcement officials say they have strict guidelines to determine whether an abduction is eligible for the alert system.

In most cases, the missing child must be younger than 15, and the police must believe that the youngster is at risk and that abductor and child are probably still in the area. A description of the abductor or abduction also must be available.

Using those guidelines, organizers expect that the Washington alert system will be used four or five times a year.

"The best-case scenario," said Prince William County police Lt. John Collier, who helped set up the system, "is that we never have to use it."

Request more info about this product / service / company

Be the first to comment on this story

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent News

U.S. Park Officer Tells of His Response to 2013 Navy Yard Shooting
Nearly one year after the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, one of the officers...
Killer Who Shot NYPD Officer in 1974 Up for Parole
The 67-year-old twice-convicted killer is up for parole in November, but the officer's...
SureFire Adds Two IR-Capable Weapon Lights to X-Series Lineup
The X300V and X400V IRc feature SureFire’s V-Series head, a sealed, selectable head that...
California Drug Raid Nets AK Rifles Modified to Look Like Toys
A two-month undercover investigation led police this week to arrest three men and seize...
Poll: Utah Citizens Favor Military Equipment for Police
A poll conducted recently in Utah shows that the residents of that state support police...

Get Your FREE Trial Issue and Win a Gift! Subscribe Today!
Yes! Please rush me my FREE TRIAL ISSUE of POLICE magazine and FREE Officer Survival Guide with tips and tactics to help me safely get out of 10 different situations.

Just fill in the form to the right and click the button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.

If POLICE does not satisfy you, just write "cancel" on the invoice and send it back. You'll pay nothing, and the FREE issue is yours to keep. If you enjoy POLICE, pay only $25 for a full one-year subscription (12 issues in all). Enjoy a savings of nearly 60% off the cover price!

Offer valid in US only. Outside U.S., click here.
It's easy! Just fill in the form below and click the red button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.
First Name:
Last Name:
Zip Code:
We respect your privacy. Please let us know if the address provided is your home, as your RANK / AGENCY will not be included on the mailing label.
E-mail Address:

Police Magazine