AMBER Alert: How it started and how it's helped

By Christina Maxouris

Published October 17, 2018

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America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, or AMBER alert, first started in Dallas-Fort Worth when local police partnered with broadcasters to create a system warning for abducted children

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It's a legacy to Amber Hagerman

A 9-year-old girl who was kidnapped and killed in Aarlington, Texas, in 1996.

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The system has helped rescue 924 children since 1996. But how does it work?


  • Once law enforcement officers confirm a child has been abducted, they notify broadcasters and state transportation officials to issue an alert.

  • Alerts usually involve children 17 or younger, and include descriptive information about the victim and abductor.

  • They're usually issued when police believe the child is in danger and target people in nearby geographic areas.


Alerts break into radio and television programming, as well as DOT highway signs and can appear on cell phones, internet search engines, digital billboards and the lottery.


In 2017:

Texas issued the highest number of AMBER alerts (26), followed by California (19) and Georgia (14). 61% of children reporters missing last year were 5 years old or younger.

AMBER Alert is now used in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Indian country, Puerto Rico and all the US Virgin Islands. It’s also been picked up by 22 other countries

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