On January 13, 2014, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) announced the launch of an AMBER Alert Twitter account. Using the handle @AMBER Alert, the new account will make it easier for these alerts to reach the approximately 49 million monthly Twitter users in the United States.
The announcement was made on National AMBER Alert Awareness Day, which the U.S. Department of Justice observes annually to increase awareness of the AMBER Alert program and encourage public engagement in the safe recovery of abducted children. Twitter users who follow the @AMBER Alert handle will automatically receive all AMBER Alerts in their Twitter feed. Facebook users have been able to receive AMBER Alerts for their region since 2011.
“Since it was created in 1996, the AMBER Alert program has grown into a powerful national network that has helped to safely recover 679 abducted children,” said Karol V. Mason, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and National AMBER Alert Coordinator. “By adding Twitter to the network, we greatly enhance our ability to reach the public and are able to make this important public safety tool even more effective.”
Law enforcement issues AMBER Alerts, which include any available information about the child, abductor, or suspected vehicle used in the abduction, and specify the geographic area where the alert should be disseminated. Once issued, broadcasters and transportation agencies disseminate the alerts. They are also sent to NCMEC, which resends the alerts to a network of secondary distributors that include Internet service providers, digital billboards, truckers, cell phones, and others. NCMEC will issue the alerts via Twitter through this secondary distribution.
The AMBER Alert program, which is managed by OJP with the support of OJJDP, is active in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To date, the program has been credited with the successful rescue of 679 children.