The Pennsylvania State Police today joined law enforcement agencies across the country to recognize AMBER Alert Awareness Day and to ensure everyone has their smartphone settings enabled to receive AMBER Alerts.
AMBER Alert, the national early warning notification system for abducted children, marks its 24th year in 2021. The AMBER Alert system was created as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted near her Texas home on Jan. 13, 1996. Her body was found four days later in a creek less than five miles from where she went missing.
The Pennsylvania AMBER Alert system, which is administered by the PSP, was established in 2002. In addition to alerts sent almost instantaneously to smartphones, AMBER Alerts provide the critical information on child abductions via radio and television broadcast messages, lottery retail terminals and highway advisory signs. In 2020, the Pennsylvania State Police issued five AMBER Alerts on behalf of various law enforcement agencies, leading to the safe recovery of seven children.
“The AMBER Alert program is successful thanks to the support of various stakeholders and the general public,” said Corporal Shawn Kofluk, supervisor of the Pennsylvania State Police Missing Persons Unit. “Tips received from the community after an AMBER Alert activation have saved the lives of abducted children, and the PSP is grateful for the public’s assistance in these critical and time-sensitive investigations.”
Specially-trained PSP personnel are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, prepared to issue an AMBER Alert if an abducted child is in imminent danger of death or injury and there is sufficient descriptive information about the victim and the abduction to assist in the child’s recovery. The department has issued 100 AMBER Alerts since the program’s inception in 2002, leading to the safe recovery of 115 children. PSP also provides AMBER Alert training and guidance to municipal law enforcement agencies so that timely, accurate and complete information can be quickly shared with the public when circumstances call for an AMBER Alert.
“These are the most serious of child abduction cases with the highest potential for tragedy,” said Kofluk. “Having a child abducted is every parent’s worst nightmare. People can help bring abducted children home safely by paying attention to AMBER Alert messages on-air and online and ensuing their mobile devices are set to receive wireless emergency alerts in their device’s ‘settings’ menu.”
Several agencies and organizations partner with the PSP to make the AMBER Alert system possible: Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Pennsylvania Lottery, Office of State Senator Michael Opie, Pennsylvania Cable and Telecommunications Association, Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, Outdoor Advertising Association of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers, and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Most AMBER Alerts involve abductors who are known to the abducted child(ren), such as an estranged parent or caregiver. Parents should always take abduction threats seriously and report them to local police. Experts also recommend creating a child identification kit, which includes a recent color photo and descriptive details such as age, height and weight.
Visit psp.pa.gov for more information.