After Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old child abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996, the question arose: When a child is abducted and each minute matters, why can’t the police and the media get together to inform the public with the same urgency of, say, a weather warning about a tornado or a hurricane? Radio and television executives adopted the idea, and the Dallas Amber Plan was initiated in July 1997. Houston set up its own Amber Plan in 2000, and two years later Texas instituted a statewide Amber Alert. That same year the U.S. Justice Department began coordinating the program for states and cities.

  • 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.
  • 58,200 children were the victims of non-family abductions.
  • 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical kidnapping. (These crimes involve someone the child does not know or someone of slight acquaintance, who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.)

The Amber Alert has become the gold standard in how police provide broadcasters with timely information about abductions including photos and descriptions so word can be spread immediately to the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of an abducted child. The decision to declare an AMBER Alert is made by each police organization which investigates the abduction. Today, all 50 states and hundreds of cities have Amber Alert plans.