National AMBER Alert Symposium Held in Arizona
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More than 300 participants from across the nation and from Canada, Mexico, and Europe attended the Office of Justice Programs' (OJP's) and OJJDP's annual National AMBER Alert Symposium in Phoenix, AZ, on November 16–18, 2010. The participants represented federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement; family members of missing and abducted children; broadcasters; the media; missing children clearinghouses; AMBER Alert Coordinators; departments of transportation; and other stakeholders in the AMBER Alert program.

Keynote speakers included Sharon Sexton, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona; Mark Shurtleff, the Attorney General of Utah; Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; and Marilyn Roberts, OJJDP's Deputy Administrator for Programs. Diena Thompson, the mother of Somer Thompson, whose life was tragically cut short after being abducted in October 2009, also offered remarks. Ms. Thompson is on the Board of Directors of the Somer Thompson Foundation, formed in March 2010 to provide education, resources, and financial assistance to victims of violent crimes against children.

"For 27 years, we at the National Center have worked with our partners at the U.S. Department of Justice and OJJDP to mobilize people, build networks, engage the private sector, and motivate the public to help in the search for missing children," said Mr. Allen. "It is a true public-private partnership."

Topics discussed during the symposium included case studies of child abduction, emerging and best practices, collaboration with media partners, Child Abduction Response Teams, families and survivors, AMBER Alert in Indian country, AMBER Alert's Southern Border Initiative, predatory behaviors, and human trafficking. In addition, awards were presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to AMBER Alert programs in their communities.

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 525 abducted children nationwide. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada have AMBER Alert plans.


For more information about the AMBER Alert program, visit its Web site.

2010 Success Stories: AMBER Alert Program

  • In Raleigh, NC, two boys ages 2 and 3 were abducted from their mother's home by their noncustodial father and his friend. The father had a protection order taken out on him a few days prior to the abduction after he was arrested and charged with domestic violence and child abuse. An AMBER Alert was quickly issued. The abductor's family members saw the AMBER Alert and notified the children's father. The abductor began to cooperate with law enforcement and the children were safely rescued.
  • In Ukiah, CA, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) requested an AMBER Alert for a 1-year-old boy and a 6-month-old boy. The siblings were left inside a vehicle parked outside a strip mall in Ukiah and abducted by a stranger who stole the vehicle. A regional AMBER Alert was issued. About an hour later, a person who was aware of the AMBER Alert observed the vehicle and notified local law enforcement. CHP responded and rescued both children.
  • In Bronx, NY, two siblings ages 12 and 4 were reported by their mother as missing from their beds at 4:30 a.m. The older girl had run away in the past, but had never taken her sister. The older sister had been diagnosed with a mental capacity of a 6-year-old and had no means to care for herself or for her sister on the streets of New York City. An AMBER Alert was issued. A couple of hours later, as the children walked into a school, a security guard who was aware of the AMBER Alert recognized the girls and held them until police arrived. The children were recovered unharmed.