NewsIn Focus


AMBER Alerts - A look at the when, how and why

Posted at 7:52 AM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 10:50:49-05

BALTIMORE — Nearly 26 years ago, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman disappeared from a parking lot in Arlington, Texas.

Her body was found four days later.

During the four days Amber was missing, a woman who'd heard about her abduction on the news, wanted to help, but didn't know how.

The frustrated Diane Simone called a radio station in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with an idea, an alert system for abducted children.

The AMBER alert was born, AMBER an acronym for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, and a tribute to Amber Hagerman.

In the years following Hagerman's murder communities across the country began to set up their own AMBER alert systems, but it wasn't until Congress passed the PROTECT Act in 2003, that the AMBER alert system was legislated to be coordinated nationally through the Department of Justice.

For law enforcement to activate an AMBER alert, the DOJ recommends the following criteria to be met:

  • The missing person must be a child, 17 years old or younger.
  • Police must have a reasonable belief that the child has been abducted.
  • Officials must also believe that the child is in serious danger of bodily harm or death.
  • Law enforcement also needs to have enough information about the child and the abduction for the alert to be useful.

Maryland State Police added the following to its state-wide criteria:

  • The child is believed to still be in the broadcast area.

In Maryland, a law enforcement agency must make a request to the Maryland State Police to activate the AMBER alert system.

To help make the alerts more easily distributed, AMBER alerts were officially integrated into the Wireless Emergency Alerts on January 1st, 2013.

You can check in your phone's settings to see if your phone is getting AMBER alerts.

More than 1,000 children have been recovered through AMBER alerts as of this summer, according to the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children.

However, police in Arlington, Texas are still searching for Amber Hagerman's killer.