Launched on January 13, 1996, the AMBER Alert system issues media alerts on radio, television, highway signs, wireless devices such as mobile phones, and over the Internet when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts provide information about the child and the abductor that can lead to the child's recovery, such as a physical description of each and a description of the abductor's vehicle. The AMBER Alert program has helped recover 495 abducted children nationwide. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada have AMBER Alert plans, and 2 Mexican border states have AMBER Alert Coordinators.
Managed by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) with the support of OJJDP, the AMBER Alert initiative sponsors a broad array of activities, including annual national training conferences and local and regional training on topics such as Child Abduction Response Teams (CARTs) and investigative techniques. The sixth annual AMBER Alert Symposium, held in Tampa, FL, on October 2729, 2009, offered the latest information on human trafficking, CARTs, uses of new technology, border coordination, the use of AMBER Alerts in tribal communities, and numerous other topics.
Efforts are underway to bring the AMBER Alert system into Mexico through the AMBER Alert Southern Border Initiative. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports that Mexico accounts for 47 percent of all international child abductions from the United States. More than 100 local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement officers from the United States and Mexico met last year in San Diego, CA, to train and discuss efforts to stop child abductions in both countries. On May 13, 2009, Baja California became the first state in Mexico to join the AMBER Alert network. A second state, Tamaulipas, appointed an AMBER Alert Coordinator immediately after the 2009 AMBER Alert Symposium.
In 2009, under a cooperative agreement with Fox Valley Technical College, OJJDP provided 10 CART training and technical assistance programs to 563 law enforcement and child protection professionals. Participating agencies were encouraged to review existing policies and practices and ways in which interagency and regional cooperation could improve casework involving missing and abducted children. Participants received guidance on creating memorandums of understanding, resource inventories, and action plans to use when they returned home to guide them through the development of a CART, thereby building a foundation for improving response capacity, resource coordination, and child-recovery capabilities in their jurisdictions.
AMBER Alert in Indian Country
Through the AMBER Alert in Indian Country initiative, OJP initially developed AMBER Alert plans in 13 pilot tribal communities. Through the expansion of the AMBER Alert in Indian Country initiative, OJP provided training and technical assistance to additional tribes, and now a total of 33 tribes have AMBER Alert plans. Assessments of capabilities have been conducted at all sites, with the focus on building capacity within each community to respond to and investigate reports of endangered, missing, or abducted children. OJJDP provided a range of training and technical assistance in fiscal year 2009 to build on these capabilities.
Twelve sites have adopted or are in the process of adopting AMBER Alert programs, either alone or in cooperation with state and local authorities, and 12 tribes have passed tribal resolutions or ordinances adopting the AMBER Alert program. All of the participating tribal communities are developing their own CARTs or are participating with local agencies that have CART programs. An additional 10 tribal communities, which were not initial pilot sites, have also created their own CART programs. There are currently a total of 27 tribal CART programs.
Each of the original pilot sites received an equipment allocation to implement an AMBER Alert. Allocations were based on several characteristics, including community needs assessments, tribal population, adoption of a tribal resolution to create an AMBER Alert plan, and participation at AMBER Alert in Indian Country trainings and meetings. Through a donation from NCMEC, each of the tribes was given a computer, printer, fax machine, and camera dedicated to finding missing children on Indian lands. The equipment allocation also included police vehicles.
To date, more than 700 tribal community members, government leaders, first responders, child protection officials, and law enforcement officials have attended training and technical assistance programs to improve skills and capacity related to a wide range of child protection needs. Interest in the AMBER Alert in Indian Country initiative continues to grow, and to date there have been approximately 50 requests for technical assistance from tribal communities for FY 2010. OJJDP has established the goal of implementing AMBER Alert plans in an additional 25 tribal communities in 2010. To read recent AMBER Alert success stories, click here.