RALEIGH - A joint effort of law enforcement and the state's broadcasters to find misising and abducted children is marking a decade of success. During the past 10 years, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety has activated the state’s AMBER Alert system for abducted or endangered children 83 times. To date, the system has a 100 percent success rate, meaning all 83 cases were resolved.
AMBER, which stands for America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response, celebrates its 10th anniversary Wednesday. State officials, local law enforcement and broadcasters have been working together since the program’s inception to notify the public through radio or television to be on the lookout for abducted children as soon as an incident occurs.
“The AMBER Alert system has grown and expanded through the years with updated technology incorporated into the effort to locate and recover abducted children,” DPS Secretary Kieran Shanahan said. “We applaud the broadcast stations for their participation and celebrate a system that helps find our missing and endangered children.”
Legislation in 2002 established the North Carolina Child Alert Notification System and allowed the N.C. Center for Missing Persons to accept private donations and expand the program statewide. The center initially received a $212,000 federal grant and a $150,000 donation from the Tabors, owners of Revival Soy, a family-owned business in Kernersville. Funds were used to hire two employees and purchase equipment. By January 2003, participants of NC CAN included 55 law enforcement agencies and 30 broadcasters. The system soon expanded to all 100 counties and House Bill 478 ratified legislation to rename NC CAN to AMBER Alert on June 5, 2003 and signed into law on June 12, 2003.
The first child recovery under N.C. CAN was in 2002, and the first AMBER Alert occurred in Mecklenburg County on Aug. 27, 2003, when a baby girl was in the back seat of a hijacked car. She was safely recovered. This case was the first time the Division of Criminal Information Network and Department of Transportation’s electronic road signs were used.
Other technologies have been initiated since that time, including Bell South’s automatic notification to their field technicians and, most recently, alerts programmed into cell phones.
The N.C. State Highway Patrol administers the AMBER Alert Plan through the N.C. Center for Missing Persons in cooperation with state broadcasters.
“As a parent and a law enforcement officer, I believe the AMBER Alert is a needed, valuable resource that we will continue to use to protect our most treasured asset: our children,” said First Sgt. Jeff Gordon, director of the Center for Missing Persons. “The alerts are carefully screened to ensure that they are used for actual abductions or when a child’s life is in danger, and not for runaways. The sooner law enforcement receives information on sightings, the higher the likelihood that the child will be returned safely.”
The N.C. Center for Missing Persons strictly adheres to the AMBER Alert criteria, as set forth in North Carolina statue: the abducted child must be aged 17 or younger, believed to have been abducted, not taken by a parent (unless the child is in danger), not believed to be a runaway or voluntarily missing and the abduction has been reported to and investigated by law enforcement.
The Center for Missing Persons credits the success of the NC AMBER Alert Plan directly to the growing number and commitment of national and state partnerships.
“The center continues to work very closely with public and private entities to ensure as many eyes and ears as possible receive an AMBER Alert message in order to quickly and safely locate an abducted child,” said Nona Best, supervisor of the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons.