In 20 minutes, Maryland State Police Lt. Barry E. Leese can spread the news of a child’s kidnapping across the state of Maryland, the Baltimore Sun reports. The 28-year police veteran oversees the state’s Amber Alert system, which uses highway signs and television and radio broadcasts to notify the public of a child abduction.
Since the system began last August, each alert has generated hundreds of tips for investigators. Twice, suspects being sought heard the alerts and called authorities themselves.
But it has not been a perfect beginning. Two of Maryland’s four Amber Alerts were based on false reports, generating concern that the system eventually will be more often ignored than heeded. Police warn that anyone who misleads them will face charges.
Carla T. Proudfoot of the Maryland Center for Missing Children, says that, “Most children who are abducted are recovered within a 50-mile radius of where they were taken. We have 5.2 million people in the state of Maryland. That’s a lot of eyes.” Today, 42 states have Amber Alert systems. On April 30, President Bush signed a federal law mandating a nationwide system for tracking abducted children.