Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Department of Justice Observes AMBER Alert Awareness Day

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Justice commemorated the 13-year anniversary of the AMBER Alert program today by outlining its tremendous success and announcing the latest tool to aid in the search for missing persons.

The PROTECT Act, which President Bush signed into law in April 2003, statutorily established the national AMBER Alert Coordinator role within the Department of Justice. Since that time, AMBER Alert has made remarkable progress:

-- All 50 states have statewide AMBER Alert plans, creating a network of
systems to aid in the recovery of abducted children nationwide.
-- A secondary distribution effort undertaken in partnership with
wireless companies, online service providers, and other private and
public entities enables AMBER Alerts to be sent directly to the
-- Tribal nations are working to develop their own plans tailored to
their specific needs so that children in Indian country may benefit
from AMBER Alert.
-- More than 90 percent of the 432 AMBER Alert recoveries have occurred
since the program became a nationally coordinated effort in 2002.
-- Anecdotal evidence suggests that perpetrators are well aware of the
power of AMBER Alert, and in many cases have released an abducted
child upon hearing the alert.

"The Department of Justice leads our federal government's commitment to protecting children and to supporting families at every possible place of vulnerability in our society," said Office of Justice Programs' Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, who serves as the National Amber Alert Coordinator. "Over 400 children have been recovered as a result of the Amber Alert network. This unprecedented partnership between law enforcement, alert citizens, and the news media continues to be one of the most effective tools employed to protect children."

On January 13, 1996, Amber Hagerman was abducted while riding her bicycle and then brutally murdered. The AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert network was created after her tragic death to provide emergency broadcast messages to the public when law enforcement determines that a child has been abducted. AMBER Alert broadcasts include information about the child and the abductor, including physical descriptions and information about the abductor's vehicle, which could lead to the child's recovery.

In a related effort, the Department of Justice is raising awareness about its latest public resource to aid in the search for the missing. The Department's National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) Initiative consists of a missing persons database and a database of unidentified remains which will ultimately interconnect to search and match records later this year. The missing persons component of NamUs is now available to accept missing persons data from law enforcement and the public at www.namus.gov. The unidentified remains component of NamUs was launched in 2007 and currently serves as the nation's sole repository for information on unidentified remains.

NamUs provides access nationally to criminal justice personnel and the general public for reporting, locating, and matching missing persons to unidentified remains records. The NamUs initiative has been supported by a number of key participants in the nation's effort to solve missing persons cases, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Individuals can search the NamUs database using characteristics such as demographics, anthropologic assessments, dental information, and distinct body features.

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