The Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), recently upgraded the America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert website, which now includes access to AMBER Alert in Indian Country.
The AMBER Alert program was established in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. The program was created as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then murdered. Other states and communities soon set up their own AMBER plans as the idea was adopted across the nation. Born Nov. 25, 1986, Amber Hagerman would have turned 33 today.
The website, managed by OJP, provides historical data on the program, publications, statistics, points of contact and other valuable information to help regional and state-level AMBER Alert training and coordination efforts. OJP helps states develop AMBER Alert plans and provides guidance on the issuance and dissemination of AMBER Alerts. States’ plans establish a framework to synchronize communication with law enforcement and the public and to coordinate search efforts for abducted children. Since its inception 23 years ago, the AMBER Alert program has helped 967 abducted children return home safely.
“We know that when an AMBER Alert is part of the response, the odds are high that an abducted child will come home safely,” said OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan, who is the National Coordinator for the AMBER Alert Program. “This updated website gives our AMBER Alert partners more information, greater access to resources and a better chance to rescue endangered children.”
The website upgrade gives much needed access to Native American and Alaska Native communities who suffer rates of violence that far exceed the national average, including disproportionate rates of missing and murdered women and children. The website will also feature a summary of the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Initiative. This Initiative is a part of the 2018 Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act which was born out of the abduction and murder of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike of the Navajo Nation in 2016. At the time, tribal law enforcement officers did not have an AMBER Alert plan to notify people living on the reservation — a serious problem shared by tribes across the country. The legislation makes grants available to federally recognized tribes and villages and permits the use of grant funds to integrate state or regional AMBER Alert communication plans with tribes across the nation. The website updates will also provide other training and technical assistance resources. A Justice Department survey of 100 federally recognized tribes from 26 states revealed that 76 tribes participate in a state or regional AMBER Alert plan.
The website links to resources that support the AMBER Alert program through national partners and grantees of the OJJDP. These partners include the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Fox Valley Technical College, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In addition to the website upgrade, the Department will conduct its annual National AMBER Alert Symposium next summer. The 2020 event will be a joint event to include AMBER Alert coordinators, Missing Persons Clearinghouse managers, as well as those working on issues implementing AMBER Alert in Indian Country.
The website can be accessed at https://amberalert.ojp.gov/.
About the Office of Justice Programs
The Office of Justice Programs, directed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan, provides federal leadership, grants, training and technical assistance, and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, assist victims and enhance the rule of law by strengthening the criminal and juvenile justice systems. More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.