13 January, 2010

Amber Alert

The following post appears courtesy of Kim Lowry, Communications Director for the Office of Justice Programs

There are few things more frightening than the loss of a child. Each year some 800,000 children are reported missing in the United States. Most of these children are not victims of abduction, and, fortunately, most soon return home.

For some children, however, their separation will last far longer—even a lifetime. For others, their abduction ends in the most tragic of ways.

The challenges of rescuing endangered missing and abducted children require a determined and coordinated effort. The first hours following a child’s abduction are the most critical. Of the children murdered in stranger abductions, 3 out of 4 are killed within the first three hours.

Early intervention is crucial and provides our best hope of protecting such children and reuniting them with their families. It was for this reason that the AMBER Alert system was initiated 14 years ago today.

Following the 2002 White House Conference on Missing, Exploited, and Runaway Children, the PROTECT Act placed the AMBER Alert program under the auspices of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, with its Assistant Attorney General serving as AMBER Alert’s National Coordinator. As a national effort, the program coordinates media, law enforcement, and transportation agencies’ efforts to notify the public about missing children in the critical first hours following their abduction.

I am pleased to report that every state, two U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia have AMBER Alert plans, and we are working hard to extend the program’s outreach.

Scores of tribal communities are developing their own AMBER Alert plans and programs and we have worked closely with Canada and Mexico to expand AMBER Alert efforts across our nation’s northern and southern borders.

The Department of Justice is committed to protecting our children and their families. Thanks to the collaboration of AMBER Alert’s partners and the timely response of concerned citizens to its alerts, 495 children have been returned to their families and homes.

AMBER Alerts are of course only a piece of what the Department of Justice does to protect children. Today, the Department announced the appointment of Francey Hakes to serve as the National Coordinator for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, a position created by Congress in the Protect Our Children Act of 2008.

I invite you to visit the AMBER Alert Web site at www.amberalert.gov to learn how you can help.

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