AMBER Alert Program Expands to Facebook
ANNOUNCEMENT COMMEMORATES THE 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ABDUCTION AND MURDER OF 9-YEAR-OLD AMBER HAGERMAN
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Jan. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Life-saving AMBER Alerts are now available to the millions of people on the social networking service Facebook. Effective today, Facebook users are able to sign up to receive AMBER Alert bulletins for their state which will be sent to them through the Facebook “News Feed” feature. A total of 53 new AMBER Alert Pages have been created, one for each state, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. Facebook users will also be able to share the AMBER Alerts with their friends.
There are more than half a billion users of Facebook. The new Facebook AMBER Alert pages represent an important expansion of the national AMBER Alert program.
“Everyone at Facebook feels a responsibility to help protect children and, as a former federal prosecutor and a father of two, I am particularly proud that we are now part of the AMBER Alert program,” said Chris Sonderby, Facebook Lead Security and Investigations Counsel. “Our hearts go out to the families of the missing and our gratitude goes to the officers, volunteers, and other AMBER Alert partners who work tirelessly to bring them home. We are hopeful that today’s announcement offers these dedicated officials another useful tool to find and safely recover abducted children.”
Information about the new initiative was announced today by Facebook, the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The announcement was made the day before the 15th anniversary of the abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, namesake of the national AMBER Alert Program.
As the National AMBER Alert Coordinator, I am pleased to see the growth of the program’s national network. I would like to thank NCMEC and Facebook for working together to develop another way the public can join with us to bring home missing and abducted children. We each can play our part by being aware and responsive to AMBER Alert postings that we will now see on Facebook,” said Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs.
An estimated 800,000 children are reported missing every year. AMBER Alert is a voluntary partnership involving law-enforcement agencies and broadcasters. An urgent AMBER Alert bulletin is issued by law enforcement in the most serious child-abduction cases that meet specific criteria. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the child.
“Average people doing average things but paying attention are saving lives and reuniting families,” said Ernie Allen, President of NCMEC. “With more than 500 million Facebook users this bold initiative will help us mobilize many more people and bring more missing children home.”
All Amber Alerts on Facebook press materials can be found at http://scr.bi/fbAMBER. The Facebook Amber Alert page is http://on.fb.me/AMBERalertFB. An archived video of today’s press conference is available at http://on.fb.me/FBDClive.
About the AMBER Alert Program
On January 13, 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman went missing while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas. A neighbor heard her scream and saw a man pull her off her bike throw her into the front seat of his pickup truck and drive away. Local radio and television stations covered the story. However, four days later Amber’s body was found in a drainage ditch four miles away. Her kidnapping and murder still remain unsolved.
Although her case has never been solved, her abduction and murder in 1996 lead to the creation of the national AMBER Alert Program. AMBER stands for: America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response. In response to Amber’s abduction, the Dallas/Fort Worth Association of Radio Managers teamed up with local law-enforcement in 1997 to implement the first local AMBER Plan. Since that time, the program has grown into a seamless network of 120 AMBER plans across the country, and has even reached into Canada, England, France, Greece, Portugal, Mexico and other countries.
In 2003, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Justice to oversee the AMBER Alert program designating the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs as National AMBER Coordinator. To date, the AMBER Alert program has been credited with the safe recovery of 525 children nationwide.
The primary means for AMBER Alert activation is the Emergency Alert System (EAS), the broadcast system used for weather emergencies and other public emergencies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created a special code and tone for AMBER Alerts. Once law enforcement has determined that a child has been abducted and the abduction meets AMBER Alert criteria, law enforcement notifies broadcasters and state transportation officials.
To enhance and expand the reach for AMBER Alerts an AMBER Alert Secondary Distribution System has also been created. These “secondary” alerts are reaching millions of Americans in many ways including through partnerships with Internet Service Providers, the Trucking Industry, the Wireless Industry and through the use of Digital Signage which all help distribute AMBER Alert bulletins to a geographically targeted audience. The Justice Department has designated NCMEC to coordinate these secondary distributions. When law enforcement activates an AMBER Alert, they also alert NCMEC, which coordinates the additional dissemination.
The new Facebook AMBER Alert pages represent an important expansion of the secondary distribution system and will enable AMBER Alerts to dramatically increase the reach of and impact of these life-saving bulletins.
All press materials are available online at www.scribd.com/facebookdc.
SOURCE National Center for Missing & Exploited Children