Online Staff Report
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois AMBER Alert Task Force announced Nov. 26 the 10-year anniversary of the first AMBER (America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert broadcast in Illinois.
Every year, hundreds of children are abducted in Illinois. Most are returned home safely; unfortunately, others are not. The public’s help in locating missing children is critical, and the AMBER Alert Task Force relies on tips and information to assist law enforcement’s efforts in finding missing children.
When a child is reported missing, every second counts. That is why the AMBER Alert Program’s greatest tools are the eyes and ears of the public.
The AMBER Alert System is named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted in 1996 while playing near her home in Arlington, Texas. She was later found murdered. In response to community concern, the Texas Association of Radio Managers, with the assistance of Texas’ local area law enforcement, created the first AMBER Plan. All 50 states now have similar plans.
The Illinois AMBER Alert Notification Plan is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters and the National Weather Service to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases. This is the same concept used during severe weather emergencies. The goal of the AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe return of the child.
The effectiveness of the system requires collaboration between law enforcement agencies, Illinois Broadcasters, the National Weather Service, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Press Association and the public.
“While we hope for a day when we never again need an AMBER Alert, the broadcast community, as always, stands ready to voluntarily serve at moment’s notice,” said Dennis Lyle, president and CEO of the Illinois Broadcasters Association. “We’re humbled that so many successful recoveries of abducted children have been credited to the immediacy of over-the-air AMBER Alert broadcasts contributed by the fact that so many citizens are tuned in to broadcast radio and TV at any given time of day who are then alerted to the real-time crime and thus providing law enforcement with the sudden help of hundreds and many times thousands of civilian eyes and ears to aid them in the search and recovery process. There is no finer example of broadcasters serving their community of license than that of an AMBER Alert.”
Since its inception, the Illinois AMBER Alert System has been used to broadcast 88 messages of abducted children with the Alert accounting directly for 41 children returned home safely.
In 2012, Illinois has activated six AMBER Alert Broadcasts. In four of those cases, the AMBER Alert was credited with the recovery.
Since 1997, nationwide AMBER Alerts have been credited for more than 590 children returned home safely.
“The proof of the effectiveness of an AMBER Alert Broadcast is in the numbers,” says Illinois AMBER Alert Coordinator Craig Burge. “This program is unlike many others because it is a public partnership. Citizens in Illinois can take pride in the fact that they can help each and every time a child is abducted by simply being aware of their surroundings and reporting what they see to law enforcement officials.”
Burge also stressed that collaboration is key. “This collaborative effort will continue to provide the basis for the success of AMBER Alerts for years to come,” he said.
For more information about AMBER Alerts, to find out how to receive AMBER Alerts on your cell phone or to see how you can help by donating to the AMBER Alert Fund, visit www.amberillinois.org.
Posted Nov. 26, 2012