It’s every parent’s worst nightmare - your child. Missing.
Not too far from Cincinnati, in Indiana, the Indiana State Police have issued two Amber Alerts in the past two days. That is highly unusual for our Western neighbors, according to Andre Clark, Program Director for Missing Children and the Amber and Silver Alert programs. Nevertheless, these alerts have heightened parent anxiety everywhere.
With the recent days' history in mind, it's helpful to know the ins and outs of Amber Alerts, in order to be prepared on what to do:
What is an Amber Alert?
- An Amber Alert is when law enforcement agencies immediately alert the public, typically via television, radio and social media, when a "qualifying" child abduction is confirmed.
- Statewide text alerts like this one are automatically issued in the event of an Amber Alert.
What is a “qualifying" abduction?
- A child under the age of 18.
- The child must be believed to be abducted and in serious danger. This determination is made by the local law enforcement agency and then communicated to the State Police.
- There must be enough descriptive information to communicate to the public, such as a description of the child as well as information about their last known whereabouts, possible abductor and any vehicles involved.
- A law enforcement agency must make a request to the State Police to issue an Amber Alert.
How is the public notified?
- The Federal Communications Commission’s policy is that everyone receives Amber Alerts unless they choose to opt out. Indiana only issues statewide alerts, so unless you have selected not to receive them, all Indiana residents’ phones should have gone off twice in the last few days, according to Clark.
- Alerts are also communicated out to news agencies, posted on digital roadway signs and highlighted by social media sites like Facebook.
What is the purpose of the Amber Alert?
- Andre Clark says, “The purpose is to make the public the eyes and ears of law enforcement.”
- The expectation of the State Police is that if you see the people or vehicle mentioned in the Amber Alert, you will call local law enforcement or 1-888-58AMBER and report the information. “Any lead is a good lead,” said Clark.
Why do Amber Alerts work?
- “The Amber Alert program is one of the most effective programs ever designed by the Federal government,” says Clark. Why? Because the public is always concerned about the well-being of children.
- Time equates to distance, Clark explained, so the immediacy of the Amber Alert is crucial for its success.
What is the role of the State Police?
- The State Police issues the Amber Alert within one hour of an agency providing them the information.
- They also offer assistance and support with the investigation - including additional manpower - upon the request of the requesting agency.
- They cooperate with other agencies such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
If an Amber alert happens in Ohio, exercise caution but do not panic. Make sure you know your child's whereabouts at all times, and be sure to teach them basic safety practices. Here is one instance where smartphones and social media can help.
Sources: Andre Clark, Program Director 1 with the State Police, Missing Children and Amber and Silver Alerts, Ohio Amber Alert Advisory.