A nationwide Amber Alert network to locate missing children is expected to be in place within a year, assistant U.S. Attorney General Deborah J. Daniels said yesterday, the Dallas Morning News reports. The plan emerged from the 1996 kidnapping and killing of Amber Hagerman, 9, of Arlington, Tx. In the Dallas area now, Amber Alerts are issued when children under 15 are abducted and believed to be in physical danger. The alerts, including descriptions of the child, the suspect and any vehicle they’re believed to be in, are broadcast over radio and TV and posted on highway information signs.
In April, President Bush signed legislation establishing a national Amber Alert network. More than 90 local, state and regional Amber Alert systems have been established. Only Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, North Carolina and Wyoming do not have statewide systems. Amber Alerts have been credited with the safe recovery of more than 80 children since 1996.
Dallas police Lt. Bill Walsh said that 74 percent of children abducted by strangers are killed within three hours. But, he said, law enforcement shouldn’t overuse the alert. “If we’re going to go to the media, we can’t cry wolf all the time,” Lt. Walsh said. “We want to reserve the Amber Alerts for the most necessary cases. But if we’re going to make an error, let’s make an error on the side of using it when we didn’t need to.”