LAWFUEL – Legal Newswire – DENVER – The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) today opened its 5th National AMBER Alert Conference in Denver. Over the next four days, teams from all 50 states, tribal communities, the territories, the District of Columbia, Canada, and Mexico will gather to discuss strategies for strengthening the AMBER Alert network.
ASeventy-four percent of children who are kidnapped and later found murdered are killed within the first three hours after being taken,@ said Cybele K. Daley, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs. AOur many AMBER Alert partners are gathered here to ensure that our response to child abductions, wherever they occur, is swift and seamless.@
Participants will take part in workshops focusing on all aspects of AMBER Alert plans and will hear about best practices for issuing an AMBER Alert, relevant technology, and tools for investigating missing and abducted children’s cases. They will also gain insight into what motivates child abductors as well as an understanding of the victims= perspective. Among the featured speakers is Elizabeth Smart, who at age 14 was abducted from her home in Salt Lake City in June 2002 and went missing for nine months before being found about 18 miles from her home.
Other speakers include Acting Assistant Attorney General Daley; Troy Eid, United States Attorney for the District of Colorado; David Fisher, Criminal Investigations Division Chief, Denver Police Department; and Trevor Wetterling, brother of abducted child, Jacob Wetterling, and co-author of “What About Me: Coping with the Abduction of a Brother or Sister.”
The AMBER Alert program began in Texas in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed up with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. The system was created in memory of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas, who was abducted while riding her bicycle and later found murdered. AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alerts are emergency messages broadcast when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts include information about the child and the abductor, including physical descriptions and information about the abductor’s vehicle, which could lead to the child’s recovery.
AMBER Alerts are also available to wireless users who can opt to receive geographically-specified messages on their wireless devices or cell phones through an AMBER Alert wireless messaging system. Wireless subscribers with the ability to receive text messages may opt in to receive AMBER Alerts by registering at www.wirelessamberalerts.org or by visiting their wireless carrier’s web site.
In October 2002, President Bush hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children. Following the conference, the Attorney General appointed the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs to serve as the national AMBER Alert Coordinator, and work began on a strategy to create a seamless national network of alert systems. The PROTECT Act, which President Bush signed into law in April 2003, statutorily established the national AMBER Alert Coordinator role. Since that time, AMBER Alert has made remarkable progress.
· All 50 states now have statewide AMBER Alert plans, creating a network of systems nationwide to aid in the recovery of abducted children.
· A secondary distribution effort undertaken in partnership with wireless companies, online service providers, and other private and public entities enables AMBER Alerts to be sent directly to the public.
· Tribal nations are working to develop their own plans tailored to their specific needs so that children in Indian country may benefit from AMBER Alert.
· More than ninety percent of the 365 AMBER Alert recoveries have occurred since AMBER Alert became a nationally coordinated effort in 2002.
·Anecdotal evidence demonstrates that perpetrators are well aware of the power of AMBER Alert, and in many cases have released an abducted child upon hearing the alert.
The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has five component bureaus: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office for Victims of Crime. Additionally, OJP has two program offices: the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed strategy, and the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking Office (SMART). More information can be found at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov.