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AMBER Alert Remarks-Ernie Allen

AMBER Alert Remarks-Ernie Allen

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Published by: Facebook Washington DC on Jan 12, 2011
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Hello I am Ernie Allen, President of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and I am pleased to welcome you to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. We are delighted that so many have joined us today at our Jimmy Ryce Law Enforcement Training Center here in Alexandria.

Before we get started I would like to recognize some special guests that are here with us today: On the stage with me are Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and National AMBER Coordinator; Colonel Steven Flaherty, Superintendent Virginia State Police; and Chris Sonderby, Facebook Lead Security and Investigations Counsel.

In the audience I would also like to recognize Jeff Slowikowski, the Acting Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention; Marne Levine with Facebook (and possible others). Today, we recognize and commemorate a sad anniversary. Tomorrow is the 15th anniversary of the abduction and murder of a little girl named

Amber Hagerman. Today we are also making an exciting announcement about a program that is saving lives. This morning you hear from a number of speakers and will learn the details about this new initiative and why it is so important.

The media are asked to hold any questions that they have until everyone has finished their remarks. At that time we will open the floor for questions.

I would like to begin by telling you more about Amber Hagerman who I mentioned a few minutes ago. On January 13, 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, when a neighbor heard her scream. The neighbor saw a man pull Amber off her bike, throw her into the front seat of his pickup truck, and drive away at a high rate of speed. The neighbor called police and provided a description of the suspect and his vehicle. Arlington Police and the FBI interviewed other neighbors and searched for the suspect and thevehicle. Local radio and television stations covered the story. Four days later Amber¶s body was found in a drainage ditch four miles away.

Although her case has never been solved, her abduction and murder in 1996 led 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 teams up with local law-enforcement in 1997 to implement the first local AMBER Plan. The concept was simple. Time is of the essence in looking for a missing Child. Use the old emergency broadcast system, now called the Emergency Alert System, not just for weather emergencies and other civil emergencies, but also for the most serious child abductions. They implemented it in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and almost immediately it began to work. 8 week old Rae Leigh Bradbury of Arlington, abducted by a drug-involved babysitter, became the first child recovered safely due to an Amber Alert. A motorist driving down an Interstate Highway heard the Amber Alert over the radio, saw the vehicle described in the Alert directly in front of him, and used his cell phone to alert authorities. The abductor was apprehended and little Rae Leigh was recovered.

Dallas authorities said, ³this works and needs to be implemented nationwide.´

In 2003 the Congress passed the PROTECT Act, which created a national AMBER system, headed by the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs as the National AMBER Coordinator.

Once law enforcement has determined that a child has been abducted and the abduction meets AMBER Alert criteria, law enforcement notifies broadcasters and state transportations officials. AMBER Alert enables us to mobilize the eyes and ears of the public in those vital early moments following the disappearance of a child. It is a voluntary program that works and costs virtually nothing. The progress has been incredible. Today, there are 120 AMBER plans in the United States, including statewide plans in every state. The AMBER Alert has been implemented in Canada, parts of Mexico, the UK, France, Greece, Portugal and other countries.

However, our goal is to reach everyone who might have seen something or know something, so we have also implemented a secondary AMBER System. When AMBER Alerts are activated by local law enforcement, the National Center is contacted and receives the case information. So, in addition to notification via EAS, the Center also distributes that information to many companies and industries helping us reach even more people. For example, the Internet industry is a major partner. The wireless industry initiates wireless AMBER Alerts via text message.

Today we take another bold step to engage millions more. Life-saving AMBER Alerts are now going to be available to the millions of people on the social networking giant Facebook. Beginning today, Facebook users will be able to sign up to receive AMBER Alert bulletins for their state. A total of 53 new AMBER Alert Pages have been created, one for each state, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. And they will be able to share them with their friends. With more than half a billion users of Facebook, the new Facebook AMBER Alert pages represent an important expansion of the national AMBER Alert program.

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