I know many of you may have questions about how Amber Alerts are activated. Here are the New York State guidelines for Law Enforcement agencies to activate the Amber Alert Plan for a missing child.
“The AMBER Alert Program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child.”
AMBER Alerts are automatically sent through the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program to millions of cell phone users. If you have a WEA-enabled phone, you are automatically enrolled for the three alerts: President, Imminent Threat and AMBER Alerts.
The New York State AMBER Alert Plan can be activated when an investigating law enforcement agency has reasonable cause to believe that:
- An abduction of a child (under the age of 18) has occurred, and
- The child is believed to be in danger of serious bodily harm or death, either due to the actions of another or due to a proven mental or physical condition.
Even if formal activation criteria have been met, activation may be impractical if available information is not specific enough and/or an extended period of time passed since the disappearance.
For example, an AMBER Alert specifying involvement of a white van (without a license plate number) could actually hinder an investigation by causing the public to inundate police agencies with possible sightings.
“Reasonable Cause to Believe” means that from eyewitness accounts, or by eliminating other possibilities, your investigation leads you to believe that a child has been abducted.
Familial abductions qualify only if a child is endangered by the actions of the abducting family member.
Whenever an AMBER Alert request does not meet activation criteria, requesting agencies are referred to other NYS Police investigative resources and to the NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services Missing Persons Clearinghouse (MPC) for possible issuance of a Missing Child/College Student Alert.
AMBER Alerts will link to photos of missing children under FCC upgrades.
Any questions or concerns on AMBER Alert messages received on your phone should be directed to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Reach them at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or visit missingkids.com.
By Mike Reilly, District 31 Community Education Council President and former NYPD Lieutenant