January | February 2020

AMBER Alert System: Rescuing Children and Saving Lives for Nearly 25 Years

AMBER Alert logoNational AMBER Alert Awareness Day is observed every year on January 13 to share information with the public about how to become engaged in the safe recovery of missing and abducted children.

AMBER Alerts are emergency messages issued when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. OJJDP engages partners, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), federal law enforcement agencies, wireless carriers, Internet service providers, and social media outlets, to support the program.

AMBER Alert plans have been established in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the program has expanded into Indian country and the nation’s northern and southern borders. As of December 31, 2019, a total of 977 children have been successfully recovered through the AMBER Alert system.

OJJDP’s AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program serves law enforcement first responders, investigators, and supervisory personnel as well as other nonprofit and community child protection professionals and community groups. Training is available in a range of areas, including basic forensic responses to missing and abducted children, investigative strategies for child abduction cases, child abduction case studies, the implementation of Child Abduction Response Teams, and child sex trafficking in Indian country.

In fiscal year 2019, OJJDP awarded grant funds totaling $4.4 million under the training and technical assistance program. A minimum of $1.5 million of the amount was earmarked to carry out provisions of the Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2018. The law provides for the formal integration of tribal AMBER Alert systems into state AMBER Alert systems and makes tribes eligible for AMBER Alert grants. It also permits the use of grant funds to integrate state or regional AMBER Alert communication plans with an Indian tribe and allows for waivers of the matching funds requirement.

In 2019, OJJDP developed a new AMBER Alert in Indian Country website. In addition to many other features, the site offers tribal communities information about training and technical assistance and opportunities for collaboration with other AMBER Alert partners throughout the country. The Office of Justice Programs has upgraded its AMBER Alert website with new information to support tribal partners. It also provides publications, statistics, points of contact, and other resources on a variety of topics related to AMBER Alert.

OJJDP convened the inaugural National AMBER Alert in Indian Country Symposium on July 30–August 1, 2019, in New Mexico. The event brought together tribal leaders, state AMBER Alert coordinators, public safety officials, and federal representatives to exchange information about implementing AMBER Alert plans in Indian country.

Earlier in 2019, the Office convened a 3-day National AMBER Alert Symposium attended by AMBER Alert coordinators, Missing Person Clearinghouse managers, and Child Abduction Response Team members from across the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

Both symposiums allowed participants to share best practices to improve the nation’s response to missing and exploited children and learn about resources available through NCMEC, the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program, and other OJJDP partner programs.


Implementation of the Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2018: A Report to Congress discusses the readiness; education, training, and technological needs; and obstacles tribes encounter in the integration of AMBER Alert plans.

AMBER Alert Best Practices provides law enforcement and other first responders with online, comprehensive, best-practice recommendations on field operations, including the mapping of key decision points in the life cycle of an AMBER Alert.

AMBER Alert Field Guide for Law Enforcement Officers discusses suggested practices in key areas such as the initial on-scene response and investigation, the establishment of tip call centers and management of tip information, the use of Child Abduction Response Teams, and search and recovery operations.