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America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert

The AMBER Alert system is a statewide program that allows media outlets and law enforcement to work together to immediately alert the public to child abductions, and enlist the community's aid in locating the child and apprehending the suspect.

AMBER Alerts can be broadcast locally to one area, to multiple counties, or statewide. All 50 states now have AMBER Alert. AMBER Alerts have been highly successful when activated properly. There are specific criteria which keep AMBER Alerts from being overused. AMBER Alerts can only be requested by local law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Department of Justice’s guidance on criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts is:

  • 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 in 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.  Most state's guidelines adhere closely to DOJ's recommended guidelines.

NOTE: The AMBER Alert is NOT intended for cases involving runaways, missing children where there is no evidence of foul play, custody disputes that are not reasonably believed to endanger the life or physical health of a child, or missing adults unless there is a proven mental or physical disability.

See the California Highway Patrol's Amber Alert webpage for more information.

MOBILE PHONE AND WIRELESS AMBER ALERTS

To learn more about Wireless AMBER Alert and Emergency Alerts, go the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

DURING AN AMBER ALERT SEVERAL THINGS HAPPEN

  • The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is activated. The Emergency Alert System affects radio and television stations by sending out emergency alert tones and overriding the local station programming. Often the information is broadcast on the air and also scrolled across the television screen.
  • An emergency digital information system FLASH bulletin (EDIS) is distributed to law enforcement agencies and media outlets.
  • A child abduction poster is created and distributed with the child, and if possible, the suspect and suspect vehicle pictures on it. The poster can be distributed via the Internet, faxing, or a special computer program called Technology to Recover Abducted Kids (TRAK).
  • Additional resources that may be utilized are the Caltrans changeable message signs (CMS) and the Highway Advisory Radio System (HARS).
  • The Sacramento Police Department has specific policies and procedures in place to quickly activate the local AMBER Alert system in case of a child abduction occurring within the city limits.

    For more information, email the Sacramento Police Department.