Imagine being a parent whose child has been abducted. What would you do? Who would you call for help? And how likely is it that your child will return home safely?
John Walsh, from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says, "Statistics show that the first few hours are critical for a child's safe recovery."
Now those first few hours are more organized for the families of kidnapped kids in the Valley. America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response, better known as the AMBER Alert System, has been adopted by the Virginia State Police and this month, by Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, too.
Ken Puffenbarger, Master Police Officer at the Harrisonburg Police Department, says, "I have two children myself. It's a great tool. I think it should make all parents in the Valley feel safer knowing we have something like this around."
In Harrisonburg, where the police are parents, too, Sergeant Cindy Cull-Wright is spearheading local Amber Alert efforts.
"We can't remember the last time an incident occurred when we could've used the Amber Alert but that's not to say it can't happen today or tomorrow. We'd like to be prepared for that," she says.
This is how the AMBER Alert works.
- It's activated by police who have confirmed the child is abducted.
- The child must also be proven to be in serious danger.
- Children who have runaway or been taken by a parent don't qualify.
"We can't abuse the system. If it's abused, people aren't going to listen anymore. They're not going to tolerate hearing an Amber Alert every week," says Cull-Wright.
The police alert the public through the media with specific details like a suspect or car to look for. The alert is broadcast throughout Virginia. And an added local effort includes Harrisonburg police calling every household in the area with a reverse 911 recording.
To date, there have been 80 AMBER Alert activations and sixteen children have been returned home safely.
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The AMBER Plan
The AMBER Plan is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies and broadcasters to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases.
Broadcasters use the Emergency Alert System (EAS), formerly called the Emergency Broadcast System, to air a description of the missing child and suspected abductor.
This is the same concept used during severe weather emergencies. The goal of the AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe return of the child.
How Does the AMBER Plan Work?
AMBER Plans Nationwide
Source: http://www.missingkids.org / (The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Web site)