The case of Hannah Anderson out of San Diego, California this past week showed yet again, how the Amber Alert System was both a huge success and a colossal failure at the same time.  Ultimately it was the amber alert that the horseback riders saw that lead them to calling the police after they got home; which, is quite likely what saved this child's life.  On the flip side, perhaps if the alert had actually made it to Idaho sooner, Hannah could have been located days earlier and been spared several days of trauma.

Someone needs to explain to me why I would get the alert some 500 miles away when those 100 miles away did not.  Oh wait, the answer is because there is a state border in close proximity to the East, but not the North.  Of course, silly me, a kidnapper makes sure to stay in the original state of abductin.  Not!  In search and rescue when looking at a map, you make radiating rings from the last known location based on time that has passed and how far your missing person potentially could have traveled.  Why on earth would you not do the same thing for an Amber Alert?  I understand that you can't set one off across the entire 50 states, but it seems to me for the first at least 3-5 days they should be able to broadcast them in all directions based on that same type of calculation.

In Hannah's case, the alert only went North (and to the Border to Mexico), because they felt he was likely headed to Canada.  Meanwhile, they were cruising through Nevada and then into Idaho without anyone having a clue they should be on the lookout for this car and this child.  Then when they finally do get the alert out to Idaho they put it up on the news and there is no phone number!  Luckily the good citizen(s) who spotted them in the Idaho wilderness had the fortitude to call an old friend at the Idaho State Police which got the ball rolling.  Really though?  No phone number?  Come on people.

Again, Hannah got lucky.  These people that are nothing short of angels who were there at the right time and the right place lead to her rescue, but it certainly was not  a great deal of help from the Amber Alert system.  These are not ridiculously complicated changes that need to be made.  This is basic stuff.  Geographic proximity and boundaries instead of state lines and put a phone number up.  That can't be too much to ask.
For quick reference here is the list of places flyers should be put (it is also in the resource guide).  
Getting the Missing person's face and information out there is critical to their return
When a person goes missing, immediately get flyers out within a 5 mile radius of their place last seen.  As quickly as possible continue to expand that radius out, but make sure that the first 5 miles is completely saturated at all of the places listed below.
If a person has any chance of being a runaway or abduction case flyers need to get out to all of these places in a hundred mile radius.  200 miles is even better.

§  Fast food restaurants
§  Restaurants
§  Post offices
§  Schools & School districts
§  Grocery stores
§  Banks
§  Drive up ATM’s
§  UPS & FedX
§  Utility companies
§  Morgues
§  Stores
§  Chamber of Commerce
§  Shopping centers
§  Service stations (every store if possible)
§  Truck stops
§  Hotels,motels,inns
§  Child related businesses
§  Hospitals
§  Doctor’s offices
§  Apartment complexes
§  Airports
§  Rental car agencies
§  Sporting events
§  Parks
§  Homeless shelters and community kitchens
§  Suicide prevention lines
§  Public transportation
§  Craigslist
§  Libraries, public and schools
§  Churches
§  City Govt buildings
§  Yahoo groups (via email)
§  Bike couriers
§  Meter readers
§  Phone companies/trucks
§  Cab companies
§  Universities
o   Dining Halls
o   Mail areas
o   Common areas
(check them off) o   Send web version to groups who are out often
§  Jogging
§  Cycling
§  Mom’s groups
§  Riding (horse and motorcycle) Groups
§  Team in training
§  Girl/Boy Scouts
§  Big Brother/Big Sister
§  PTA
Other means of distributing flyers
See if local papers will insert flyers in the paper
  • Ask churches to hand out at their services
  • Ask pizza companies to place on each box
  • Ask larger businesses if they will forward to all branch locations
  • Ask delivery truck drivers to drop off flyers at every stop they make
This seems to be an ongoing topic of heated debate.  Let's see if we can clear up some of the confusion.

Criteria for issuing an Amber Alert
What are the criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts? Each state AMBER Alert plan has its own criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts. The PROTECT Act, passed in 2003, which established the role of AMBER Alert Coordinator within the Department of Justice (DOJ), calls for DOJ to issue minimum standards or guidelines for AMBER Alerts that states can adopt voluntarily. DOJ's guidance on criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts is:

  • Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place
  • The child is at risk of serious injury or death
  • There is sufficient descriptive information of child, captor, or captor's vehicle to issue an alert
  • The child must be 17 years old or younger
  • It is recommended that immediate entry of AMBER Alert data be entered in FBI's National Crime Information Center. Text information describing the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the child should be entered, and the case flagged as Child Abduction.

Why can't law enforcement issue an Amber Alert for ALL missing children?
To answer this let's take a look at some numbers.

A child goes missing every 41 seconds
2,100 children are reported missing every day
800,000 per year

upwards of 500,000 more per year are never reported

It would be logistically impossible to post every child on the Amber Alert System.
If the Amber Alert System ran continuously people would not pay attention to it and it would become ineffective.  It would become just another flashing sign to ignore on the highway.

The sad fact is that to keep the system running effectively for the best chance of recovery criteria must remain in place.  
Because of the Amber Alert System over 500 children have been recovered.  The system is working.

This has been a long time in the making.  Well, nine months in the making anyway.  Or depending on how one looks at it 20 years.

In March I received a call from a family member regarding a friend whose daughter was missing.  Members of the community were trying to be helpful but really had no idea what to do.  Shortly after that, a local case came about in which The Sheriff's Office had done some initial searches but because of lack of information and limited resources they had stopped their efforts for the most part.  I offered to help a group of dedicated volunteers who were working very hard but struggling with many aspects of running a search and rescue operation. While spending 12 plus hours a day working on this I realized the need for an organized source of information for communities and individuals who want to help but have no idea where or how to start.  Thus began 4 The Missing.

It needed to be simple enough for anyone to understand and use.  It needed to be thorough enough to be useful.  It needed to be short enough that someone could read it and begin to get things up and running in a few hours.  Trying to whittle down decades worth of knowledge and experience, technical data and so on was a daunting task to say the least.

After yet another case I realized that while I was "perfecting" the site and content people were struggling and really in need of this resource.  This is a work in progress, but I feel that it is important to get it up and out there so that it can be of use.  Please, don't hesitate to contact me if you need help with a case in your community or it is your loved one who has gone missing.  There is no charge for anything on this site, there never will be.
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