It’s a quiet Tuesday evening. You’re home enjoying dinner with your family after a busy day at the office. Suddenly, your heart rate jumps as every cell phone in the house starts sounding an ominous alarm. You reach for your device, anxious to see what the emergency is, slightly terrified there might be a tornado or other imminent natural disaster (even though you know in the back of your mind that the weather is fine). You see the words “AMBER ALERT” flash across your screen, and you inadvertently breathe a sigh of relief. Your family is safe.

Sound Familiar?

What we just described is a common scene across Missouri and the rest of the United States. Unfortunately, the sigh of relief that escapes from the lungs of hundreds of people every time they see the words “AMBER ALERT” is both ignorant and unjustified. AMBER Alerts are very, very serious, and it is important that they be treated accordingly. Today, our mid-Missouri attorneys are here to help you understand the AMBER Alert system and how you can help.


What Is The AMBER Alert System?

AMBER Alerts are state-governed emergency alerts used in the most serious child abduction cases. AMBER stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.” In order for an AMBER Alert to be issued, law enforcement must have reasonable belief that an abduction has occurred (AMBER Alerts are not issued in cases of children running away). The other important criteria is that the local law enforcement assigned to the case have reason to believe that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. AMBER Alerts are reserved for children ages 17 and younger.

AMBER Alerts are alerts that are sent automatically to every WEA-enabled cellphone. “WEA” stands for “Wireless Emergency Alerts.” WEA-enabled phones are automatically enrolled to receive three types of emergency alerts: Imminent Threat, Presidential, and AMBER Alert. AMBER alerts are also issued on radio and television broadcasts and DOT highway signs.

What Information Is Included In An AMBER Alert?

The goal of an AMBER alert is to provide mass-dissemination of news of an abducted and endangered child so the public can work together to rescue the child quickly and safely. Thus, AMBER Alerts are often reserved for serious situations wherein law enforcement has enough descriptive information to provide to the public. AMBER Alerts may include any of the following information.

  • Physical description of the child/children abducted
  • Physical description of the suspected kidnapper
  • Description of the vehicle the suspect is driving
  • License plate number of the vehicle the suspect is driving
  • County in which the abduction occurred

AMBER Alerts also include links to photos of the missing children and, when available, photos of the suspected kidnapper. The links also include phone numbers for the public to call if they have any information.

How Effective Are AMBER Alerts?

The AMBER Alert system was first implemented in 2003. It was named in honor of 9-year-old named Amber Hagerman who was brutally murdered after being kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas. The most recent statistics are from 2015, at which point the AMBER Alert system had successfully aided in the safe recovery of 800 children across the Nation.

The AMBER Alert system serves as a deterrent to would-be kidnappers by demonstrating how quickly the general public will band together to protect the children. Sometimes, the kidnapper will release the abducted children simply upon learning that an AMBER alert has been issued.

Unfortunately, there are situations where the AMBER Alert and best intentions of both law enforcement and the general public were not able to protect the children. A recent example occurred in St. Louis in November of 2016, wherein a father shot and killed his two sons (and then himself) when police approached his vehicle. This tragic story serves an important reminder of the seriousness of AMBER Alerts – if one is issued, it means that one or more children is in grave danger.

What Can You Do When An AMBER Alert Is Issued?

If you are notified of an AMBER Alert in you area, the most important thing you can do is to be on alert for any information that may be able to aid law enforcement in their mission to rescue the children. If you spot a vehicle that matches the description or have any other information to offer, it is crucial that you call 911 or the phone number(s) provided in the link in the AMBER Alert. For more information, visit AMBERAlert.gov.

It is through the dedicated assistance of the general public that the AMBER Alert system has aided in the safe recovery of more than 800 children since its inception. We implore you – the next time you learn of an AMBER Alert, do not brush it off. Watch carefully for any information that may be helpful, and report any information you have as quickly as possible.

Together, we can help keep our children safe.

Contact Deputy & Mizell, LLC

Representing Clients Across the Lake of the Ozarks Region


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