As part of Michigan Amber Alert Awareness Week, the Michigan State Police is seeking to educate residents about the Michigan Amber Alert System and provide tips to help keep children safe.
Amber Alert of Michigan is a non-profit organization dedicated to being a liaison between law enforcement and the media to help in the immediate dissemination of information to the public about a missing child.
Amber stands for America's Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response, and also for Amber Hagerman for whom the alert is named.
Amber Alert of Michigan has been operating since June 2001. More than 320 children have been recovered and returned home safely through the state's Amber Alert system.
The Michigan State Police suggests the following tips to help parents keep their children safe:
- Parents should teach their children that if something makes them feel uneasy or uncomfortable, they should get away quickly and tell their parents or a trusted adult about what happened.
- Parents should teach their children that it is OK to be suspicious of an adult asking for assistance, since many child predators use this technique to isolate and distract a possible child victim.
- Children should know their home address and telephone number, and know how to contact their parents if there is an emergency.
- Parents should teach their children how to dial 911 when asking for help in an emergency.
Since January 2013, millions of cell phone users across the country can now receive free, automatic notifications about abducted children in their area through the Wireless Emergency Alerts system. The first 48 hours following the disappearance of a child are the most critical in terms of finding and returning that child safely home.
Consumers with Wireless Emergency Alerts capable cell phones are automatically enrolled to receive free Wireless Emergency Alerts text messages for Amber Alerts, along with Presidential and Imminent Threat Alerts. For more information on the WEA system, visit www.fema.gov.
The Michigan Amber Alert System is activated by the Michigan State Police when an endangered person under 17 years of age is missing and when the following circumstances exist:
- The child suffers from a severe mental or physical disability that greatly impairs the child's ability to care for him/herself.
- The child is a victim of a stranger or acquaintance kidnapping.
- The child is in the company of a person who has a confirmed criminal history of child abuse/neglect, sexual assault, domestic assault, a crime involving the victimization of children, has made statements of intent to harm the missing child or is suicidal.
- The child has been abducted by a non-custodial parent whose parental rights have been terminated.
Amber Alert of Michigan is supported by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Sheriffs' Association and the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.
The Amber Alert system was started in Texas.
In January 1996, nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was riding her bicycle when a neighbor heard the girl 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 speed.
The neighbor called police and provided a description of the suspect and his vehicle, but couldn't recall much else.
Arlington, Texas, Police and the FBI interviewed other neighbors and searched for the suspect and vehicle. Local radio and TV stations covered the story in their regular newscasts. Four days later, Amber's body was found in a drainage ditch four miles away. Her throat had been cut. Her kidnapping and murder remain unsolved.
A concerned resident contacted a Dallas radio station suggesting the idea that Dallas radio stations should repeat news bulletins about abducted children just like they do severe weather warnings.
The idea was presented to the general managers of the radio stations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. They agreed that such a program would provide an important public service and might help save the life of a child.
The Dallas Amber Plan was started in July 1997 to help safely recover missing children that police believe have been abducted. Since then, the program has successfully recovered eight children in Texas.
Although the Amber Plan is named after Amber Hagerman, this national program is dedicated to all children nationwide who've been abducted.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, up to 4600 children are abducted by strangers every year - about 12 children nationwide every day.
Amber Alert was launched in Michigan on June 19, 2001.