AMBER Alerts and Facebook - A Great Partnership

The AMBER Alert program, credited with the safe recovery of 525 children across the country, has a new ally today ~ Facebook.

Announced today by Facebook, the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), Facebook users will now be able to sign up to receive AMBER Alert bulletins for their state which will be sent to them through the Facebook "News Feed" feature. The bulletins will be sent to their Facebook pages the same way they see updates from friends or businesses they like. Facebook users will also be able to share the AMBER Alerts with their friends.

With more than half a billion people using Facebook, the Facebook AMBER Alert integration represents an important expansion for the program. It's a further sign just how ubiquitous Facebook has become in people's day-to-day communication. A total of 53 new AMBER Alert Pages have been created, one for each state, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.

Birth of AMBER Alert:

On January 13, 1996, 9-year-old Hagerman was riding her bike in her Arlington, Texas neighborhood. A neighbor heard her scream and saw a man pull her off her bike, throw her into the front seat of his pickup truck, and drive away. Four days later, her body was found in a drainage ditch four miles away. The case remains unsolved.

A year after her murder, however, officials in the Dallas/Forth Worth area implemented the first local AMBER Alerts, which provide bulletins about serious child-abduction cases. In 2003, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Justice to oversee the AMBER Alert program designating the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs as National AMBER Coordinator.

The network has since grown to 120 AMBER plans nationwide, as well as international efforts in Canada, England, France, Greece, Portugal and more.

An estimated 800,000 children are reported missing every year. AMBER Alert is a voluntary partnership involving law-enforcement agencies and broadcasters. An urgent AMBER Alert bulletin is issued by law enforcement in the most serious child-abduction cases that meet specific criteria. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the child.

The primary means for AMBER Alert activation is the Emergency Alert System (EAS), the broadcast system used for weather emergencies and other public emergencies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created a special code and tone for AMBER Alerts. Once law enforcement has determined that a child has been abducted and the abduction meets AMBER Alert criteria, law enforcement notifies broadcasters and state transportation officials.

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