Crime Watch 8

AMBER Alert: What is the criteria?

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – The AMBER Alert, which began in Texas in 1996, was developed as an early warning system to locate abducted children. But what criteria must be met in order for an alert to be issued? 24-Hour News 8’s sister station WLFI took a look into those qualifications and the history behind the AMBER Alert.

AMBER, or America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, was created as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman. She was kidnapped while riding her bike in Arlington, Texas, and then brutally murdered.

Based on the idea formed in Texas, other states then implemented their own AMBER Alert systems and the program went nationwide.

But according to the U.S. Department of Justice, in order for an alert to be declared, it must contain clearly defined criteria. The most important, it seems, is law enforcement need confirmation the child was abducted. Other factors include being at risk for bodily harm and being under 17 years of age.

Recommended criteria:

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
  • The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
  • The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
  • The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.
  • The Department of Justice states the plan requires authorities to confirm an abduction prior to issuing an alert and say this is essential. Officials said to allow alerts without an abduction, could lead to abuse of the system and weaken its effectiveness.

Entering information into the NCIC system immediately is critical. Entry of data into the system allows the search to be expanded from a local, state or regional level to a national level.

If criteria is not met and an AMBER Alert cannot be issued, there are other means. The Department of Justice launched an initiative in 2006 to train Child Abduction Response Teams, or CART. These nationwide teams are designed to help law enforcement agencies find missing and abducted children.

CART can be used for all missing children’s cases. To date, there are 99 teams representing 45 states.

The AMBER Alert System is active in all 50 states. As of 2015, 800 children have been saved by the alert system.Source: U.S. Department of Justice

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