By now most Texans know Amber Alerts are intended to save the lives of abducted children. Quick action is important. The U.S. Department of Justice reports 74 % of all children kidnapped and later found murdered were killed within the first three hours after being taken. Now East Texas is learning the importance of a regional Amber Alert plan.
An organizational gathering can be attributed primarily to the initiative of Melissa Russell. She's a dispatcher with the Nacogdoches Police Department. Russell discovered East Texas is one of few areas in the state without a regional Amber Alert plan. She's coordinating law enforcement in seven counties with the help with the state Amber Alert program.
Local police and sheriff's departments play a vital role in authorizing the Amber Alert to the public. Russell explained, " Once everything has been investigated, everything is eliminated, it's certain to be an abduction then that's when the Amber Alert will go out. "
Broadcasters are generally the first to be notified through electronic equipment. Michael Schneider, with the Texas Association of Broadcasters assists with program setups. Schneider said, " Law enforcement calls in with an alert. They punch in equipment. They put in a message alert and it goes out to all broadcast stations. " The information can also be sent to electronic billboards, transportation drivers and local businesses.
Misuse is avoided. Amber Alerts are used for only the most serious child abductions. Runaways are not on the list. Specific criteria must be adopted or people would tend to simply ignore the alerts. State Amber Alert coordinator, Sam Allen said, " In Texas alone we have over 60,000 missing children that were entered into the National Crime Information Center just in 2006. And so we have to be very careful how we utilize this or it will become a 'car alarm syndrome' and over used. "