Students use AMBERAlert to help in search fot missing child By STEPHEN KELLY Staff Writer
The general public can sometimes be construed as an unreliable, irresponsible and ignorant majority. Although these preconceptions can prove to be true in some aspects of American culture, there are some people who, given the chance, can rise above the indifference of the masses. These people act not as individuals, but as Americans; Americans who live among other Americans and protect the rights of everyone as a service to the liberties that protect them. Starr Causby and Parker Brindle acted in this American spirit. On Oct. 14 the two were driving back to Auburn from Atlanta when they noticed an AMBER Alert on a highway sign warning drivers to be on the lookout for a silver Dodge Magnum. After crossing over the Alabama state line on Interstate 85, Brindle and Causby noticed a silver Dodge Magnum with no license plates excessively speeding and driving erratically. They immediately notified the authorities they had witnessed a Dodge Magnum driving presumably away from the Atlanta metropolitan area, where they had originally seen the AMBER Alert, and believed it to be the same car. The two followed in pursuit of the speeding car, under direction from the Alabama State Patrol, while awaiting police assistance. "We called 911 after we got off the phone with the Alabama State Patrol, and it had been about 45 minutes and we hadn't seen any blue lights:' Brindle said. After following the car at top speeds, Causby and Brindle's car ran out of gas, and the car got away. There were still no state troopers to be found. The AMBER Alert system is a quick response method used by state governments to quickly notify the public of a stolen child. AMBER Alerts operate by allowing the public to help the officials save these
stolen children and catch child thieves more efficiently. The Georgia Bureau ofInvestigation Web site explains the chain of events involved in issuing an AMBERAlert at length. First, the local police department 路receives the report of the crime or alleged kidnapping. Once the call is received, the crime must fit into an activation criteria in order to be passed onto higher authorities. There must a confirmed abduction of a child, no older then 18 years old. The child must be in danger and there must be a belief that the alert will help sjive the child. The alert has to be issued within hours of the abduction. After the alert meets this criteria, the plan of action varies in each state. The federal government only requires each state to have a plan of action. The AMBER Alert system works slightly different in each state as a result. Bureaucracy can bog down some state systems, and others operate fluidly with more centralized systems. Faye Hester, crime analyst with the National Center for Missing Children and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, explained the differences between the way the GEl operates its emergency response and her system at the ABI. The Georgia system relies on a separate entity to broadcast the alert message to the public. Hester said a Georgia authority had actually apprehended the suspect in the silver Dodge Magnum before the AMBERwas ever presented to the public. The GEl could not comment on the case. The AMBER Alert system seems to be successful, despite this mix-up. Hester said Alabama's AMBER Alert system works well. Although federally unregulated, the National Center for Missing Children holds a conference every year to discuss ways to improve the system. There are also ways individual citizens can become more involved.
Individuals can subscribe to receive text messages from Alabama's Emergency Alert System which them if an AMBER Alert is issued.
- The AMBER Alert was began in 1996 to honor 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, a murder victim in Arlington, Texas. - Area residents called radio stations suggestingthey broadcast alerts to help prevent this type of tragedy in the future. - The Dallas/Fort Worth broadcasters agreed and set up the AM(iER Plan, a voluntary progr&lmbetwee~ law enforcement agencies and broadcasters whereby the community is immedi~~ely made aware that a child has been abducted. - Three criteria must be met before the AMBER Alert is set in motion: - Law enforcement confirms a child has been abducted. - Law enforcement believes the child is in danger of bodily harm or death. - There is enough information about the victim, abductor and vehicle (if used) that will make an AMBERAlert helpful. - Once these conditions are met, the descriptive information, including photos, are immediately faxed to area Emergency Broadcast System primary radio stations. The primary radio stations send out this information to participating stations, and it is then broadcast to millions. Television, likewise, spreads the word by way of a "crawl" alert across the bottom of the screen. - Forty-nine modified versions of the AMBER Alert, include messages on e-mails, beepers and electronic road signs, were adopted by authorities across the nation. In May 2003, the federal government authorized a national AMBERAlert. - information compiledfrom www.greenlightwrite.com/ amber.htm