As National AMBER Alert Awareness Month concludes, the NTIC encourages the public to stay informed and subscribe to relevant notification programs, including the Wireless Emergency Alerts program (WEA)—the primary way to receive AMBER Alerts. The AMBER Alert system is named after Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old girl who was murdered after being abducted in Texas in 1996. It is operational in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Several countries around the world have also created their own AMBER Alert programs.
Alerts are triggered when a child, 17 or younger, is abducted and meets the criteria of the AMBER Alert program: the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death; there is sufficient identifiable information about the incident for law enforcement to disseminate to the public (age, gender, clothing last seen wearing, vehicles involved, last known location, etc.); and the child’s information has been put into the National Crime Information Center database.
Law enforcement sorts AMBER alerts into four categories: endangered runaways, family abduction, non-family abduction, and lost, injured, or otherwise missing. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in the rare cases of a stranger abducting a child, children are most often targeted traveling to and from school.
According to the US Department of Justice, 967 children have been successfully recovered as of September 2019—including 58 recoveries as a direct result of the WEA program pushing out AMBER Alerts. Successful recoveries include cases where individuals identified the abducted child and/or vehicle based on an AMBER Alert and then notified law enforcement.