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.
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:
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.