Wednesday, June 18, 2008

AMBER Alert Program

BC's AMBER Alert program is a tool used by the RCMP and Municipal Police Services in certain child abduction situations. When an AMBER Alert is issued, radio and TV audiences will hear a special announcement. The police now have thousands of eyes watching for the victim, suspect, or suspect’s vehicle. It is hoped that this early warning system will not only coerce a kidnapper into releasing the child for fear of being arrested but also deter the person from committing the crime in the first place. Stranger abductions are rare in British Columbia.

AMBER Alert is a province-wide, innovative partnership among the province’s law enforcement, BC Association of Broadcasters and external partner agencies to gain public support in the location of abducted children. New partnerships are constantly considered. AMBER Alert provides the public with immediate and up-to-date information about a child’s abduction via widespread media broadcasts and solicits the public’s help for the safe and prompt return of the child.

When Is an AMBER Alert Activated?

AMBER Alert is intended only for the most serious, time-critical child abduction cases. It is not intended for cases involving parental abductions, except in life-threatening situations. AMBER Alert can be used in any abduction that meets the criteria regardless of what relation the abductor has with the victim.

AMBER Alert is only activated by authorized users within law enforcement agencies. ALL of following conditions must be met before activating an AMBER Alert:

  • The victim is under the age of 18
  • Police have reasonable grounds to believe that the victim has been abducted
  • Police have reasonable grounds to believe the victim is in imminent danger
  • Police have obtained enough descriptive information about the victim, abductor and the vehicle involved
  • Police believe that the alert can be issued in a time frame that will provide a reasonable expectation that the child can be returned or the abductor apprehended

How Does It Work?

The AMBER Alert is in place to quickly notify the public of the details of the abduction during the early stages of the investigation so that police can maximize the opportunity for the successful and safe recovery of the child.

The RCMP follow an established protocol to activate the alert, using a specially designed web application that notifies police communication centers, the media, and more than 600 other participating partners simultaneously in British Columbia.

AMBER Alert uses highway message boards, radio, television and cable to immediately broadcast descriptions of abduction victims, their abductors, and suspect vehicles.

Radio and television stations immediately interrupt their programming to disseminate information. This is done as a public service without commercial endorsement.

The duration of an alert will depend on the circumstances surrounding the abduction and will vary from one incident to the next.

How Can the Community Assist?

The early stage of the investigation into an abducted child is critical. Every minute counts. The cooperation of the media and the public is crucial to the police. The determination of police investigators alone is not enough to guarantee the safe recovery of a child. Help from the community is essential. Information obtained quickly through an AMBER Alert can assist in the safe and swift return of abducted children.

AMBER Alert sends a strong message that crimes against children are intolerable, and in some cases has acted as a deterrent to potential abductors.
AMBER Alert empowers the community to work cooperatively with law enforcement and the media to increase the safety of our communities. The main objective is always the safe return of the child.

This is what you can do to help:

  • If you see or hear an AMBER Alert displayed on electronic highway signs, radio, television and cable TV stations, watch for the child, suspect, and/or vehicle described in the Alert.
  • Immediately report any sightings to the police by calling 9-1-1 and provide the location, and a description of the victim, suspect, and/or any vehicle involved.

AMBER Alert Background
In 1996, the brutal kidnapping and murder of 9 year old Amber Hagerman, caused her community of Arlington Texas to come together and create the AMBER (America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response) program with the intent of preventing such incidents from occurring in the future and to increase the safety of children in the community.

AMBER Alert first came to British Columbia on National Missing Children’s Day, May 25th 2004, and has proven itself as a successful program and law enforcement tool over the years.


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