Return to Amber Alert Details
The Amber Alert plan is a voluntary partnership between the West Virginia State Police, West Virginia Broadcasters, West Virginia Emergency Alert System Committee and the National Weather Service to send out an emergency message to alert the public when a child has been abducted and it’s believed that the child’s life is in grave danger.
The purpose of the Amber Alert System is to provide a valuable tool for West Virginia law enforcement agencies in the ongoing battle to protect our children while allowing the broadcasters of West Virginia an opportunity to contribute to the communities they serve. Utilization of this plan will provide for maximum public participation to provide rapid response in the event of an abducted child. The media, public and law enforcement must work together to ensure the plan is not abused, which would lead to a lack of confidence in the plan and render the system ineffective. The Amber Alert System will only be used in the most serious child abduction cases and only a law enforcement agency can request Amber Alert activation.
Law Enforcement Activation Criteria
The West Virginia State Police will make every reasonable effort to ensure strict criteria is applied when any law enforcement agency requests activation of West Virginia’s Amber Alert System. All necessary precautions to authenticate information and limit interruptions of local radio and television broadcasts must and will be taken, as over utilization or false information could render the Amber Alert System ineffective. Therefore, for the West Virginia Amber Alert System to be activated, the West Virginia State Police Communication Center will serve as the contact point for Amber Alert requests. Activation of the Amber Alert System requires law enforcement to meet ALL the following minimum mandatory criteria:
- Law enforcement confirms a child 17 years of age or younger has been abducted.
- Law enforcement believes the circumstances surrounding the abduction indicate that the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death.
- Law enforcement has enough descriptive information about the child, abductor and suspect’s vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast will facilitate the child’s location.
- A law enforcement officer must enter the abducted child into NCIC and must provide supporting documentation as to why the Amber Alert System should be activated.
How Can You Help?
The public plays an essential role in the Amber Alert System’s success. The system relies on the public to help locate abducted children before it’s too late.
If you hear an Amber Alert, be on the lookout for the child and suspect described in the alert message. The alert will include a telephone number so you can report any sightings to that number as soon as possible.
If you witness a child abduction, contact your local law enforcement agency to report it quickly. Be sure to make note of important information such as the physical characteristics of the child and suspect, the make and model of any vehicles involved (as well as license-plate numbers if possible), and the precise location of the abduction.
Does the Amber Plan Work?
The Amber Plan works because it instantly galvanizes the community to assist in the search for a child and his or her abductor. According to a study by the United States Department of Justice, 74 percent of the children who are kidnapped and later found murdered are killed within the first three hours after being taken. That statistic alone should prompt every state to implement the Amber Plan before a tragedy strikes.
The Amber Plan not only helps to recover abducted children but also acts as a deterrent to this type of crime. It sends a strong message that crimes against children are intolerable and that law enforcement, broadcasters, and the public all working together have the power to rescue abducted children and apprehend their predators.
Amber Alert’s Origins
In 1996, nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Arlington, Texas. Amber’s tragic death had such a profound impact on her community and throughout northern Texas that it prompted regional law-enforcement agencies and the Dallas/Fort Worth Association of Radio Managers (ARMS) to develop an innovative emergency alert plan to help recover abducted children. They named it the AMBER Plan, and it has since been embraced by communities across the country. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is working in partnership with ARMS and the AMBER Plan Task Force in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, to take the program nationwide calling it the AMBER Plan – America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response
Once a determination is made that the use of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) may aid in the locating of an abducted child, the West Virginia State Police will provide as much detailed information as reported by the investigating agency. This information will be broadcast over a three-hour period via television and radio. During the first hour, the Amber Alert will be broadcast every fifteen minutes. During the second and third hours, the information will be sent every half hour.
In the event that the Amber Alert is cancelled, for whatever reason, the use of the EAS will be immediately discontinued. In the event that significant new critical information is obtained, the determination may be made to issue Amber Alert updates.
Not all missing children cases will warrant the use of Amber Alert. Amber Alert will be utilized only in those abduction cases that law enforcement determines to be life threatening where the child is in immediate danger.
In every missing or abducted child case, you should contact local law enforcement as soon as possible and provide them with as much detailed information as possible. West Virginia’s law enforcement community is committed to take every missing child case seriously and will take those appropriate actions necessary to ensure the safe return of a child to the best of our ability.
Only when the community becomes actively involved by being our eyes and ears, can law enforcement receive the support it needs, not only to help bring missing children home, but to combat and reduce crime in general. For more information, please contact the West Virginia State Police with the contact information listed below.
West Virginia State Police
725 Jefferson Road
South Charleston, WV 25309