Most everyone is familiar with the words “Amber Alert” and understand that it means a child is missing and in great distress. What many do not realize is the actual criteria in which an Amber Alert is activated.
We at LostNMissing realize that every child that is missing is a major trauma and with a lot of fears and emotions for any family who has to endure the pain of not knowing where their missing child is, no matter the age. We have seen many on social media ask “Why is he/she not an Amber Alert?” We have also seen many cases in which very good-hearted people want to help bring awareness of a child missing and will tag it as an “Amber Alert” even though it is not. We truly ask that nobody “tag” a missing child as an Amber Alert as that can actually hinder the public from assisting. Why? Because most people are going to research online and then when they find a child is not an Amber Alert (officially) they will believe the entire missing child posting is a hoax.
Please do not list a child as an Amber Alert if they are not.
To verify if a child is an official Amber Alert, you can check here: ACTIVE AMBER ALERTS
The AMBER Alert Program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child.
AMBER Alerts are broadcast through radio, television, road signs and all available technology referred to as the AMBER Alert Secondary Distribution Program. These broadcasts let law enforcement use the eyes and ears of the public to help quickly locate an abducted child. The U.S. Department of Justice coordinates the AMBER Alert program on a national basis.
What is the Amber Alert Criteria?
Each state AMBER Alert plan has its own criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts. The PROTECT Act, passed in 2003, which established the role of AMBER Alert Coordinator within the Department of Justice (DOJ), calls for DOJ to issue minimum standards or guidelines for AMBER Alerts that states can adopt voluntarily. DOJ’s guidance on criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts is:
- Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place
- The child is at risk of serious injury or death
- There is sufficient descriptive information of child, and captor, or captor’s vehicle to issue an alert
- The child must be 17 years old or younger
- It is recommended that immediate entry of AMBER Alert data be entered in FBI’s National Crime Information Center by law enforcement. Text information describing the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the child should be entered, and the case flagged as Child Abduction.
*** Remember, the main purpose of an Amber Alert is to have the missing child broadcast on television emergency scrolls, radio, and on special highway digital billboards. In order to have this done, they MUST have a description of the vehicle or of the abductor …. and have strong indicators that the child is in extreme danger to their health , or death.
Do these situations qualify for an Amber Alert?
1. 6 year old child is playing in front yard while a parent is gardening nearby. Parent runs to the shed to get more gardening equipment and returns to find their child is missing. They immediately phone 911 and begin searching the house, their vehicles, in car trunks and get the attention of their neighbors to also search. Does this child qualify for an Amber Alert?
Answer: No. Unfortunately the child does not meet the criteria because no evidence suggests that an abduction transpired. There is no “description” that can be broadcasted of an abductor in order for the child to be found. This does not mean that the case will not be handled with nearly the same urgency, fact is…it will. The only difference is it will not be broadcast on highway billboards nor on scrolling emergency messages on television.
2. Johnny is at day care and disappears from the playground. The teachers are in a panic and call 9-1-1. Does Johnny qualify for an Amber Alert?
Answer: No. (See number one for explanation of the same.)
3. Mary is 16, home alone and decides she is going to meet the young man she has been talking with online. She is frustrated with school, her peers, her parents and decides she is going to leave with her new friend. He arrives in a vehicle and off she goes. Her parents come home and discover her missing. They found her messages on the computer and realize the young man is actually 22 years old. They phone police. Does Mary qualify for an Amber Alert?
Answer: No. Teens who leave on their own do not qualify for an Amber Alert. In some cases the police may consider an Amber Alert if they find sufficient evidence that the “young man” that Mary left with puts her at risk of serious bodily harm or death. Should they trace and find the young man is a registered sex offender and/or has a criminal background they may issue an Amber Alert but keep in mind that time is of the essence so if this information is discovered 2-weeks later, and Mary is still missing, they may or may not issue the Amber Alert.
4. Louise has taken a restraining order against her soon-to-be-ex-husband named “Jake.” He has been exhibiting a lot of anger issues and has made threats on the family. he is not allowed by court order to see his children until he sees a therapist and passes a psychological wellness exam. While at work Louise learns that Jake went to the family home and removed their toddler daughter and young son. Frantically the babysitter calls and reports this occurred and Louise phones 9-1-1. Will the police issue an Amber Alert?
Answer: Possibly. The circumstances and history of his previous actions that determined and granted a restraining order will come into play. We have seen cases in which no Amber Alert was issued because while the spouse may have issues with their soon-to-be-ex , no evidence in their history suggests that they would harm their children. The circumstance as to what and how he acted around the babysitter would also be a considering factor. Did he push his way into the home? Did he threaten to harm the sitter if he/she stood in his way? Did he make any comments that would suggest he was acting in rage or unstable?
5. Little Suzy is playing with her friend on the front yard. When her mom ran into the house to answer the telephone a man came up and asked the girls if they could go with him to look for his lost puppy. Little Suzy automatically hops in the car while her friend who is nervous stays behind. Shortly after she runs into the house to tell Suzy’s mom that she left with a man in a red car. Will the police issue an Amber Alert?
Answer: Yes. An adult male in a car who convinces a child to come with him is already suspect of causing harm to the child. An Amber Alert will be issued. Police will work with the friend to see if they can try to determine the make/model. In the meantime an Amber Alert of the child’s description and the best possible of the abductor and “red car” will become an Amber Alert.
How do I receive AMBER Alerts?
When signing up for AMBER Alerts you will receive geographically targeted information to help identify an abducted child, a suspected abductor or a vehicle suspected to be involved in an abduction.
Sign up at www.missingkids.com/AmberSignUp.
For information about how AMBER Alerts are distributed to cell phones visit www.missingkids.com/AMBER/WEA.