The 11th Anniversary of the Amber Alert system is today. It is named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman and is an acronym for America Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.
The recent successful recovery of Shawn Hornbeck and William “Ben” Ownby will probably be attributed to the success of the Amber Alert system. In a televised interview on the Nancy Grace show, a neighbor (Bill Perkins) of the accused kidnapper, Michael J. Devlin, admitted he was not even aware of what was happening until the Police and Feds showed up.
His statement makes you wonder if the Alerts are broadcast often enough or are widespread geographically. Kirkwood, Mo. Is approximately 60 miles from where Ownby was abducted.
It is rare an Amber Alert is activated. More likely it will be a “Missing Child Alert” (FL), a “Level II Morgan Nick Amber Alert” (AR), and in the case of Missouri an Endangered Person Advisory (EPA). These are often not broadcast as often or as widespread geographically. Generally the alert will only reach other Law Enforcement agencies or limited media outlets.
Amber Alerts have very specific criteria that is followed prior to activation. In order for an Amber Alert to be successful, the following needs to occur.
- Activated in a timely fashion
- Accurate and reliable information
- Public responsiveness
Everyone seems to be working on the distribution process but should the decision process be revised as well?
An Amber Alert can be received via any of these technologies:
- Broadcast Media
- Highway Signs
While companies and organizations look for ways to ensure the information is available, the responders often lack the capability to upload the information from where the child went missing without delays. This in turn can delay a decision to activate the Amber Alert as it works its way through the decision process.
Some mobile computing terminal manufactures do not offer the capability to even download a missing child’s poster even though they can receive fugitive data. Officers may use wireless data transmission to run record checks and retrieve incident reports at their vehicles but not for missing children.
Where products like this may streamline the data collection process, unnecessary delays can still happen.
One AMBER Alert Child ID kit is comprised of a 512 Megabyte USB drive and encrypted identity software that guides the parent or legal guardian through a simple process to store essential information on their child, so that in the event of abduction, law enforcement can easily and quickly access identification and contact information for the child. Recent photographs, emergency contact information, school details, and alternate guardian or caregiver information may also be included. Because the software on the USB drive is encrypted, the data entered by a parent is only accessible by law enforcement personnel.
Update: Is an Amber Alert a success just because the child is found?
The last time that Nebraska as issued an amber alert was more than a year and a half ago. A local media outlet says they had a problem getting the information over the airwaves.
Attorney General Jon Bruning said, “The AMBER Alert worked exactly as it should’ve.”