This is an archive of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP's) electronic newsletter OJJDP News @ a Glance. The information in this archived resource may be outdated and links may no longer function. Visit our website at for current information.
January | February 2016

Recovering America’s Missing Children: 20 Years of the AMBER Alert System

AMBER  Alert logoOn January 13, 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, TX, was abducted and subsequently assaulted and murdered. Although this heinous crime remains unsolved 20 years later, it resulted in the creation of the AMBER Alert system, which has since aided in the rescue and safe return of nearly 800 children.

Managed by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Office of Justice Programs with the support of OJJDP, the AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert System began in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Broadcasters there teamed up with local police to develop an early warning system that would help find abducted children. The messages were broadcast via radio and TV. The system is now being used in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Indian country, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 22 other countries. Today, in addition to radio and TV, its messages are delivered via Department of Transportation signs, cell phone notifications, digital billboards, Internet service providers, text alerts, and web and social media posts.

Following are some AMBER Alert system milestones. A comprehensive, chronological timeline is available on the AMBER Alert website.

  • 2002: AMBER Alerts become nationally focused and highway signs are added to the warning system. In conjunction with the first White House Conference on Missing, Exploited, and Runaway Children, then-Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Deborah J. Daniels is appointed as the first National AMBER Alert Coordinator.
  • 2003: The PROTECT Act is signed into law, strengthening the ability of law enforcement and the judicial system to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and punish violent crimes committed against children.
  • 2005: DOJ launches a nationwide initiative to train Child Abduction Response Teams.
  • 2011: DOJ’s Southern Border Initiative implements Alerta AMBER Mexico, a national protocol.
  • 2015: The AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program launches the new Tribal Database. The database offers important child protection and human trafficking prevention resources to tribal communities.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), in its role as secondary distributor, has developed an expanded communications network for the system. DOJ funding to Fox Valley Technical College has provided states and U.S. territories with more than $50 million in AMBER Alert training and technical assistance.

OJJDP engages numerous partners across the nonprofit, corporate, and technology sectors to bolster the AMBER Alert program. Partners include NCMEC, federal law enforcement agencies, wireless carriers, Internet service providers, social media outlets, and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. In addition, collaboration with apps, such as Waze and Uber, and other communications entities like Google and Bing are strengthening the AMBER Alert system and helping to keep the memory of Amber Hagerman alive.



Access OJP Assistant Attorney General and National AMBER Alert Coordinator Karol V. Mason’s blog "Two Decades of Rescuing Children," online.

Additional information on resources regarding missing children is available on NCMEC’s website.

Sign up to receive AMBER Alerts on Facebook or on Twitter using the handle @AMBER Alert.