May | June 2018

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Hanson Addresses AMBER Alert Symposium

AMBER Alert logoOn May 15–17, 2018, OJJDP held its National AMBER Alert Symposium in Orlando, FL. The symposium brought together domestic and international AMBER Alert program stakeholders—including AMBER Alert Coordinators, Missing Person Clearinghouse Managers, and Child Abduction Response Team Coordinators—to share best practices, participate in training, and develop collaborative relationships.

Since the AMBER Alert system was launched on January 13, 1996, it has been responsible for the safe recovery of 924 abducted children. Once law enforcement determines that a child has been abducted and is in danger, the system issues media alerts on radio, television, highway signs, wireless devices, and over the Internet describing the child, abductor, and the abductor's vehicle. The AMBER Alert program is housed in the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and administered by OJJDP.

"AMBER Alert is making a difference," said OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and National AMBER Alert Coordinator Alan R. Hanson during his keynote address on May 15. "I would wager that the very existence of AMBER Alert has deterred criminals from carrying out their designs. There's no question that AMBER Alert is a potent public safety weapon and an enormous asset in our fight to protect children."

The OJJDP-supported National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports that there were 200 AMBER Alerts issued nationwide involving 263 children in 2017. For alerts issued during the 7-month period ending March 31, 2018, more than 97 percent of children were recovered within 72 hours.

Several government representatives joined Mr. Hanson at the symposium, including Maria Chapa Lopez, U.S. Attorney from the Middle District of Florida; Roger B. Handberg, Chief, Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida; Ron Hopper, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, FBI Tampa Field Office; and Tony Rodriguez, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Orlando Regional Operations Center, Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Mr. Hanson pledged continued support for the AMBER Alert program and discussed the Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act passed by Congress and signed into law this year by President Donald J. Trump. The law will ensure that the National AMBER Alert program continues to be available to protect American Indian and Alaska Native children and will assist in integrating tribal alert systems with state alert systems.

Mr. Hanson applauded attendees for building and strengthening the AMBER Alert networks, bolstering secondary distribution of the alerts, and issuing and responding to 936 AMBER Alerts involving 1,200 children from 2013 to 2017.

Pamela Foster—the mother of Ashlynne Mike, who was abducted and murdered in 2016 in New Mexico—attended the symposium and spoke about the importance of AMBER Alerts in Indian country. Amy Boxom—the mother of Justin Boxom, who was abducted and murdered in 2010 in Louisiana—discussed child abductions from a mother's perspective.

Attendees learned about resources available through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. In addition, presenters provided information about missing and abducted children programs in tribal communities, the rise in technology-facilitated abductions, family abductions, and the importance of self-care for those who work to prevent abductions and rescue abducted children.

OJJDP continues to strengthen the AMBER Alert program through the National AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) program, which is helping to recover missing, endangered, or abducted children. Approximately 50,000 onsite and online participants have received nearly 500,000 hours of training over the course of the last 5 years.

Currently, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 22 international jurisdictions have AMBER Alert plans. More than 100 tribal communities have partnered with their state or regional AMBER Alert plans, and more than 1,600 tribal officials and community members have attended TTA programs.


Access the spring 2018 issue of The AMBER Advocate newsletter online.