OJJDP News @ A GlanceOJP seal
OJJDP News @ A Glance
May | June 2009

printer friendly version button   Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention  ·  Jeff Slowikowski, Acting Administrator
AMBER Alert Update: Indian Country Operations Evaluated, Bilingual Training Planned for U.S.-Mexico Border States

AMBER Alert logoAn assessment of AMBER Alert operations in Indian country has concluded that inadequacies in communications and information-management technology significantly hamper the ability of tribal law enforcement agencies to respond to reports of missing, abducted, and endangered children and other life-threatening emergencies.

Team members evaluated the ability of 13 tribal agencies to effectively process emergency calls, dispatch and monitor first responders, track information, and support investigative efforts. Conducted by Fox Valley Technical College and FirstPic Consulting, the assessment team used a combination of agency self-assessments, onsite inspection, interviews, and public records.

The evaluation covered tribal communities in New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Washington, Nebraska, Montana, Oklahoma, and North Carolina. The assessment produced the following findings:

  • Most tribal communities are located in areas of limited infrastructure and the law enforcement agencies do not have the technology to provide communications coverage over all their areas of responsibility.
  • Most of the agencies lack basic communications equipment such as base stations, mobile terminals, antennas, and adequate facilities to house their communications centers.
  • Only 2 of the 13 tribal agencies possess the capability to handle multiple simultaneous emergency calls or operate a phone bank in the aftermath of a crisis event.
  • Most agencies lack adequate data management capabilities.
  • All the tribes rely on a neighboring sheriff's department or State police agency to receive and forward emergency calls from tribal residents, causing reporting delays.
  • Many tribal members do not have telephones in their homes or rely on cellular phones in areas that do not support wireless call intake.
  • Most agencies suffer from significant personnel shortages, frequent turnover, and a lack of training for call takers.

Every tribal law enforcement agency participating in the assessment identified the improvement of communications and information-management technology as the most important factor in expanding their capability to respond to emergencies in their communities. More than 90 percent of funds requested by tribal communities with an AMBER Alert program are for improvements in this area.

Comprehensive interviews with tribal law enforcement personnel identified the following areas as the most important first steps in addressing these challenges.

  • Improve access to telephone communications for the public. Install call boxes, build cellular towers, and implement programs to encourage and assist in cell phone ownership.
  • Build, replace, or improve existing facilities, antennas, communications towers, and other vital technology.
  • Access and implement modern information-management and data-sharing programs that allow real-time access to Enhanced 911 (E-911), Computer-Assisted Dispatch, and other technologies call centers use to identify the exact location where the wireless call for assistance was placed.

Call-taker training also was cited as a significant need throughout Indian country. OJJDP has responded to this need by developing a program of instruction specially designed for emergency call takers in Indian country. The training program is scheduled to be launched in fall 2009.

Bilingual Training for U.S.-Mexico Border States Scheduled

In September, OJJDP in collaboration with Fox Valley Technical College will conduct bilingual training in El Paso, TX, for senior law enforcement professionals from the United States and Mexico to develop cooperative strategies, enhance working relationships, and improve the overall effort to recover missing, abducted, and endangered children in the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Participants will include the Governors of Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico (or their designees); the AMBER Alert coordinators from each of these States; government representatives from the six Mexican States that share the border with the United States; and a representative from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Simultaneous translation and written materials in English and Spanish will be provided. This bilingual effort is critical to child recovery efforts in the border region because of the differences in terminology used by law enforcement and government agencies in the United States and Mexico. Topics to be discussed during the training include legal issues between the United States and Mexico that impact missing children cases; child recovery efforts that are currently being implemented in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico; the launch of the AMBER Alert program in the State of Baja California, Mexico; and the importance of collaboration with the Governors' offices in addressing child abduction issues in the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Resources:

For additional information about AMBER Alert, please visit its Web site.