January | February 2015

Justice Department Partners With Facebook and Bing To Expand Reach of AMBER Alerts

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The first few minutes and hours after a child has been abducted are critical to any search and rescue effort; a missing child is most likely to be found alive and unharmed within the first 24 hours of abduction.

On National AMBER Alert Awareness Day, January 13, 2015, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a Justice Department partnership with Facebook, a social networking website, and Bing, a Microsoft search engine, to expand the reach of the AMBER Alert early warning system.

Created after the 1996 abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, the AMBER Alert Program, is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, Internet service providers, and the wireless industry. It is designed to disseminate timely, accurate information about abducted children, the suspected abductors, and the vehicles used in the commission of the crimes.

During an AMBER Alert, an urgent news bulletin is broadcast over various channels, including the airwaves, via text messages as well as on highway alert signs to enlist the aid of the public in finding an abducted child and stopping the perpetrator.

Facebook's expanded program provides alerts that are geo-targeted to users who are near the abduction and that are pushed to user news feeds. Notifications provide detailed information, including a photograph of the child and information about the suspected abductor. Bing will allow users to access AMBER Alerts through its online tools.

“Protecting the well-being of our young people is a responsibility that falls to every American. Each of us can help by paying close attention to alerts that come in—and by making sure you are plugged into the AMBER Alert network via social media. Remember … the more vigilant citizens we have on the look-out, the better our chances of a quick recovery,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a video message.

The AMBER Alert Program, which is managed by the Office of Justice Programs 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 732 children, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; 15 of those rescued children were due to Wireless Emergency Alerts.

Resources:

Read more about the AMBER Alert system on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the AMBER Alert Program websites.

Sign up to receive AMBER Alerts on Facebook or Twitter using the handle @AMBER Alert.

The guide, AMBER Alert Best Practices is available on the OJJDP website.