An alert designed specifically for child abductions
January 1996, nine year old Amber Hagerman was riding her bicycle when a neighbor heard a scream. The neighbor saw a man pull Amber off her bike, throw her into the front seat of his pickup truck, and drive away at a high rate of speed. The neighbor called police and provided a description of the suspect and his vehicle, but could not recall much else. Arlington, TX police and the FBI interviewed other neighbors and searched for the suspect and vehicle. Local radio and TV stations covered the story in their regular newscasts. Four days later, Amber's body was found in a drainage ditch four miles away. Her kidnapping and murder remain unsolved.
A concerned citizen contacted a Dallas, TX radio station suggesting the idea that Dallas radio stations should repeat news bulletins about abducted children just like they do severe weather warnings. The idea was presented to the general managers of the radio stations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. They agreed that such a program would provide an important public service and might help save the life of a child. The Dallas AMBER Plan was started in July 1997 to help safely recover abducted children. Although the AMBER Plan is named after Amber Hagerman, this national program is dedicated to all children nationwide who've been abducted.
Colorado's AMBER Alert
April 2002, Governor Bill Owens signed into law the AMBER Alert Plan Program (House Bill 02-1083). This bill defines an abducted child, and allows local law enforcement agencies to utilize the Emergency Alert System (EAS) in Colorado for broadcasting specific information to the public so citizens may assist in the search for the abducted child. The bill mandates the Colorado Bureau of Investigation be the liaison between the local law enforcement agency with the case information and the primary Emergency Alert System Broadcaster. In 2003, the original law was amended to allow the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to activate the Colorado AMBER Alert for another state if there is credible information the child is in or traveling through Colorado.
AMBER Alert Process
Once law enforcement has been notified about an abducted child, they must first determine if the case meets the AMBER Plan criteria:
- The abducted child must be 17 years of age or younger,
- The abducted child must be in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death,
- There must be enough descriptive information available to believe a broadcast will assist or aid in the recovery,
- The activation must be requested by a local law enforcement agency or AMBER Designee from another state.
If these criteria are met, they will notify the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. We will then obtain information about the abductor, the child, mode of transportation, direction of travel and abduction details. The AMBER Designee will utilize a computerized system to facilitate the activation process. Alert information is forwarded to the primary Emergency Alert System (EAS) station to be broadcast via the EAS to Colorado media outlets.
In addition to EAS notifications, the CBI utilizes the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system to send cell phone text messages during an activation of the AMBER Alert system. The Federal government oversees the WEA system. To learn more visit the United States Department of Homeland Security website.
This information is also emailed to the media outlets and partnering organizations. Radio and television broadcasts will be interrupted as will the operations of many of our partners. The Colorado Department of Transportation will utilize its Variable Message Signs (VMS) on Colorado highways to display pertinent information and direct you to tune to local media for additional information. The automation of the AMBER Alert process has allowed us to increase the timeliness as well as protect the integrity of the information.
If we have credible information an abducted child is in or traveling to our state we may activate an AMBER Alert for a requesting law enforcement agency or AMBER Alert Designee from another state. If we have credible information an abducted child from Colorado may be in or traveling to another state we may request an AMBER Alert through that state Designee.
Excessive or inconsistent use of the AMBER Alert Program diminishes the program integrity and effectiveness. The relationship among broadcasters and law enforcement is harmed and the public can become desensitized. To maintain program integrity, stringent activation criteria have been established and are strictly followed.
The AMBER Alert may be broadcast to the public as often as possible; however, it is recommended to rebroadcast at least every 15 minutes the first two hours, then at least every 30 minutes. The update of information is at the request of state or local law enforcement, this includes additional information, revisions, or investigative changes.
AMBER Alert Cancelation
Once the Colorado Bureau of Investigation receives confirmation from the requesting agency that the child has been recovered, the Alert will be removed. CBI will provide limited recovery information at the time of the cancelation. Requests for additional information will be forwarded to the requesting law enforcement agency.
Purpose of the AMBER Alert
- To rapidly disseminate information about a suspect and child to law enforcement agencies and the public when a child has been abducted.
- To gain the assistance of thousands of television viewers, radio listeners and partner organizations throughout the coverage area.
The public plays a critical role in the success of the AMBER Alert Program. The AMBER Alert encourages the public to look for the abducted child or suspect. You become the eyes and ears for law enforcement.
If you witness a child abduction, contact your local law enforcement agency or dial 911 immediately! Provide information on the location of the abduction and a description of the victim, the suspect and/or any vehicle involved (to include license plate information if possible).
If you hear an AMBER Alert, watch for the child, suspect and vehicle described in the alert. Immediately report any sightings by calling 911 or the telephone number included with the alert.
A person or agency that supports the AMBER Alert Plan in a primary role. A primary role is defined as direct dissemination of alert information, law enforcement training, and education to the public at large.
A person or agency that supports the AMBER Alert Plan in an ancillary role.