Calling child protection “one of the hallmarks of our work,” Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon welcomed attendees to the 2022 National AMBER Alert and AMBER Alert in Indian Country Virtual Symposium. In fiscal year 2021, OJJDP awarded nearly $141 million in grants to help protect young people from exploitation, trauma, and abuse, she noted. One-third of that sum supports efforts to find missing and exploited children.
“These grants are helping state, local, and Tribal agencies—as well as national groups—do the critical work of keeping kids safe,” the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General continued. “AMBER Alert is central to those efforts.”
The AMBER Alert early warning system notifies the public when a child has been abducted. “AMBER”—an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response—refers to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, whose 1996 abduction and murder in Arlington, TX, spurred local law enforcement and broadcasters in Dallas-Fort Worth to develop an alert system for missing children. Between its 1996 inception and December 31, 2021, the AMBER Alert system directly contributed to the recovery of 1,111 missing children. OJJDP manages the National AMBER Alert program; Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Solomon serves as the national coordinator.
“I am proud of the successes that this powerful alliance of law enforcement agencies, communication networks, and child advocates has been able to achieve. I commend you all for making those successes possible.”
—OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon
The March 29–30 symposium—held virtually to ensure compliance with COVD-19 regulations and restrictions—supports the mission of the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance program: providing training, tools, and resources to law enforcement and child protection partners, to support their coordinated efforts and safely recover missing or endangered children. The conference focused on trends in the technologies used to facilitate a multi-disciplinary, collaborative response, with an emphasis on Tribal relations and lessons learned through case studies.
Several workshops focused on missing children of color and, for the first time, a session focused exclusively on the Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act, with specialized training on cultural and other considerations specific to recovery efforts for missing and murdered people in Indian country. The 2018 Act facilitated the integration of Tribal AMBER Alert systems into state and regional systems. Prior to its enactment, Tribal law enforcement did not have AMBER Alert programs to reach people on reservations, a gap made clear after the 2016 murder of Ashlynne Mike, an 11-year-old from the Navajo Nation.
Organizers designed the symposium to answer the training needs of Tribal partners, public safety leaders, AMBER Alert coordinators, managers of missing person clearinghouses, emergency management personnel, and coordinators of Child Abduction Response Teams. Presenters included professionals from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the information clearinghouse funded by OJJDP.
A new OJJDP video, Keeping Hope Alive: The AMBER Alert Program, highlights the history of the AMBER Alert system and the moments that propelled its development.
Read about the 2021 National AMBER Alert and AMBER Alert in Indian Country Virtual Symposium in the September/October 2021 issue of OJJDP News @ a Glance.