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What is an Amber Alert?

An amber alert is a bulletin sent out to the public (via radio, television, etc.) in the same way that the national weather service might issue a storm warning in an attempt to find a missing child. It is named after the 1996 murder of Amber Hagerman, abducted while riding her bike.

Reason for Issuing an Amber Alert

Relatives were involved in nearly half of the 227 abductions that led to Amber alerts in 2007. The other reasons for issuing an alert that year included:

  • 47% family abduction
  • 41 % non-family abduction (acquaintance or stranger)
  • 11% lost, injured or missing
  • 1% endangered runaway¹


Deciding When To Use An Amber Alert

One of the biggest sources regarding Amber alerts is the debate on when exactly to use them. “If we overuse the media” say Lt. Pete Fagan, Virginia state police and Amber alert coordinator, “it will stop cooperating.” The public may also start to tune them out. “As the system has matured, we expect that it will be used with greater precision, and this may affect the number of alerts issued,” says the Justice Department, Jeffery Sedgwick, the national Amer Alert coordinator.


  1. Wendy Koch, “Amber alerts continue to decline”, USA Today, July 24, 2008, p. 3A

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