AMBER Alerts on the Decline

AMBER Alerts on the Decline

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amber-alert.jpg Every state but Alaska has issued at least one AMBER Alert — a public announcement of a child abduction using the media, email and traffic signs — since Texas launched the first program in 1997. But the number of alerts has been dropping off, and state officials say that’s not a bad thing.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the number of alerts has declined in the past three years. There were 275 issued nationwide in 2005, falling to 262 in 2006 and 227 in 2007. As of May 31 this year, there were only 74 alerts.

Last month, the disappearance of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett prompted Vermont to issue its first-ever AMBER Alert. The notice was canceled July 2 when police found her remains. Her uncle has been charged with her kidnapping.

Before the girl’s disappearance, Vermont and Alaska were the only states that hadn’t found cause to use their AMBER Alert programs. Now, Alaska remains the holdout.

Bob Hoever, NCMEC’s associate director of training, said even if he can’t pinpoint exactly why the number of alerts is dropping, he is encouraged by the decline.

Hoever said the existence of the program itself could be a deterrent to some would-be abductors and the number of abductions could be falling. Once an alert is issued, descriptions of the child and any suspects are made public.

“More people are surrendering children once they hear there’s an alert,” Hoever said.   Last year 16 abductors admitted they surrendered because an AMBER Alert was issued, he said. Also, state AMBER Alert coordinators are better informed, he said, using the program only when situations warrant an alert.

(From a feature at – Reprinted with permission)