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Are AMBER Alerts Effective In Missouri?

The goal of AMBER Alerts is to keep the public informed about a child in danger. You see and hear AMBER Alerts on television, through social media, text messages, even billboards on roads.
The goal of AMBER Alerts is to keep the public informed about a child in danger.  You see and hear AMBER Alerts on television, through social media, text messages, even billboards on roads. 

Many people wonder why they're called AMBER Alerts.  It was created in 1996 after nine year-old Amber Hagerman was kidnapped and murdered in Arlington, Texas.  Today, AMBER Alerts have been a huge success in bringing abducted children back to safety.

Missouri adopted the AMBER Alert system in 2003.  It stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.  "The purpose of the AMBER Alert is to coordinate law enforcement, media, and the public into assisting in help finding a child," says Lieutenant Dan Bracker with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. 

There have been 69 AMBER Alerts in Missouri since the system's implementation.  "It's a system that works and it's proven.  It's got a track record," explains Lieutenant Bracker.  All but one have been successful. 

Lieutenant Bracker explains the procedure for issuing an AMBER Alert. "Law enforcement agency receives the information, and verifies the criteria," he says. Here are the criteria for AMBER Alert activation: 
1- Law enforcement needs reasonable belief that an abduction has occurred.  "Not that the child ran away or was lost, but that the child was abducted," adds Bracker. 
2- The child must be seventeen years or younger.  
3- The child must be in imminent danger. 
4- Enough details must be known so that an immediate broadcast alert would help.
"Then when they meet those four criteria they contact highway patrol and we get it out instantaneously," explains Bracker.

Between the television, radio, social media, and text alerts, law enforcement officials have several tools to help you identify an abducted child. Sterling, a local supporter of AMBER Alerts says, "If it was my own kid, then I would just hope to god that somebody would see the car and rescue my little man!"  Chuck Hodson, another local AMBER Alert supporter, talks about the impact AMBER Alerts have on people in the community. "They kind of keep a look out for it. They pay attention to their surroundings more than they would usually."

The process of AMBER Alert activation is fast. "It's minutes within hours," explains Lieutenant Bracker.  He says they get plenty of accidental false leads, but that's okay. "We'll take those.  Call 9-1-1 or call  *55.  If you think you see somebody that's been reported on amber alert.  Get that information to us.  Let us prove that it's wrong.  Don't question yourself," explains Lieutenant Bracker.
 
It is important to remember as many details as possible if you do see something. "The first thing we're going to ask you is 'What's your location? Where are you? Do you have a description of the person? Can you get a license number?'" says Lieutenant Bracker.

If not all of the AMBER Alert criteria are met, law enforcement officials can still get the information out there by issuing an Endangered Person Advisory.
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