Governor Chris Gregoire has declared Sunday as AMBER Alert Day, and the Washington State Patrol is urging everyone to honor the day by getting ready to do their part if an abduction occurs.
It only takes a few minutes to go to www.amberalert.com and register to receive AMBER Alerts. Alerts can be directed to an e-mail account or mobile phone for immediate delivery.
“When a child is abducted every second counts” WSP Chief John R. Batiste said. “Thorough information on the victim and suspect, relayed to the public, gives law enforcement a valuable tool in locating the victim quickly and safely.”
The key to successfully recovering an abducted child is having everyone in the community looking for the child, and for the vehicle used in the abduction.
“The original purpose of developing the AMBER Alert System was to get as many sets of eyes as possible looking for the child or the vehicle,’” said State AMBER Alert Manager Carri Gordon.
AMBER Alerts are also broadcast via the media, on variable message signs belonging to the Washington State Department of Transportation and through the state’s Emergency Alert System.
Criteria for issuing an AMBER Alert are very specific, to ensure that messages don’t become so routine that they are ignored. Gordon stressed that if you sign up to receive AMBER Alerts your inbox won’t be filled with unrelated e-mails, or spam.
“Law enforcement agencies know that the AMBER Alert system will suffer if inappropriate or unnecessary alerts are sent,” Gordon said. “The objective criteria we use mean that AMBER Alerts are only sent in cases where the public can really help.”
The official criteria for an AMBER Alert are:
1. The child is under eighteen (18) years of age, is known to be abducted, and is not a runaway or throw away from home.
2. The abducted child is believed to be in danger of death or serious bodily injury.
3. The AMBER Alert activation should occur within four hours of the event qualifying under the criteria as an AMBER Alert, unless circumstances or the timeliness of the information warrant otherwise.
4. There must be enough descriptive information available to believe that an AMBER Alert activation will assist in the recovery of the child.
5. The incident must be reported to and investigated by a law enforcement agency.
What do you do if you see the suspect vehicle in an abduction?
“Call 9-1-1 right away,” Gordon said. “Please don’t try to recover the child yourself. The best thing you can do is be a good witness. Let law enforcement professionals make contact with an abductor who is holding a child.”
The State also has an Endangered Missing Person Advisory plan for use when children or adults go missing under circumstances that don’t qualify for an AMBER Alert. And a Blue Alert Plan, approved by the 2012 legislature, is in the final stages of development. Blue Alerts are intended to enlist the public’s help in spotting someone who has assaulted or killed a law enforcement officer.