Over the last decade, "Amber Alert" has become a household term. We all know what it means and what it is used for. But do you know how it started or who runs it? Do you know what the criteria are for issuing an Amber Alert? Do you know where to get information on current Amber Alerts or what to do if you spot a missing child? Here is everything you need to know about Amber Alerts in Tennessee.
What Is an Amber Alert?
Amber stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was named in honor of Amber Hagerman, a nine year old Texas girl who was kidnapped and murdered in 1996.
Amber Alert is a cooperative program between law enforcement and broadcasters which quickly gets word out to the public when a child has been abducted.
Origins of Amber Alerts
The first Amber Alert program was started by Dallas law enforcement and broadcasters who teamed together to spread the word when a child was abducted. The program quickly caught on in states across the U.S. In 2003, the Protect Act was signed into law and established the nationwide Amber Alert program. Today, all 50 states participate in the program. Since its inception, hundreds of children have been recovered as a result of the program.
Criteria for Issuing an Amber Alert
Unfortunately, not all missing children qualify for an Amber Alert. This is to ensure that the system is not bogged down by non-abductions or cases with insufficient information. Here are the criteria for issuing an alert from the U.S. Department of Justice:
- Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place
- The child is at risk of serious injury or death
- There is sufficient descriptive information of child, captor or captor's vehicle to issue an Alert
- The child must be 17 years old or younger
- It is recommended that immediate entry of AMBER Alert data be entered into the FBI's National Crime Information Center. Text information describing the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the child should be entered, and the case flagged as Child Abduction.
Who Operates the Amber Alert Program in Tennessee?
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation oversees the Amber Alert program for the state. This agency determines whether or not to issue an Amber Alert for a missing child. While the TBI generally adheres to the Department of Justice guidelines for issuing an alert, they have their own set of criteria:
TBI will issue an AMBER Alert when requested by a law enforcement agency when the following conditions are met:
1) Accurate information on at least one of the following:
Description of child
Description of suspect
Description of vehicle
2) Child must be 17 years of age or younger
3) A belief that the child is in imminent danger of bodily injury or death such as:
The missing child is believed to be out of the zone of safety for his or her age and development stage.
The missing child is drug dependent, on prescribed medication and/or illegal substances, and the dependency is potentially life threatening.
The missing child has been absent from the home for more than 24 hours before the incident was reported to the police.
It is believed that the missing child is in a life-threatening situation.
It is believed that the missing child is in the company of adults who could endanger his or her welfare.
How to Receive Amber Alerts
When an Amber Alert is issued, it is broadcast on local news and radio stations. You can also sign up to receive notification of Amber Alerts for those times when you may be away from the television or radio.
Receive Tennessee Amber Alerts via Facebook