July | August 2017

OJJDP Convenes AMBER Alert Symposium

AMBER Alert logoIn 2016, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center, 465,676 children were reported missing to law enforcement. There were also 179 AMBER Alerts issued nationwide involving 231 children, according to the forthcoming 2016 AMBER Alert Report.

On June 27–28, 2017, OJJDP held its National Symposium for AMBER Alert Coordinators and Clearinghouse Managers in Bloomington, MN. The symposium provides a platform for those involved with the AMBER Alert program in the United States and across our borders to participate in practical training and develop collaborative relationships.

Launched on January 13, 1996, the AMBER Alert system issues media alerts on radio, television, highway signs, wireless devices such as, cell phones, and over the Internet when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts provide physical descriptions of the child and abductor as well as a description of the abductor’s vehicle.

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs manages the AMBER Alert program with the support of OJJDP. Since the program’s inception, 881 children have been safely recovered because of AMBER Alerts.

In her keynote address, OJJDP Acting Administrator Eileen M. Garry pledged continued agency support for the program and emphasized the need for communication and collaboration between participating states, territories, and border countries.

Ms. Garry was joined at the symposium by Patty Wetterling, who—along with her husband Jerry—became a tireless advocate for missing and exploited children following the 1989 abduction and murder of their 11-year-old son Jacob. “It’s important for me, and everybody, to know that you don’t quit because some of these kids aren’t recovered alive,” Ms. Wetterling said. “You don’t quit looking for the rest of them.”

Several federal agencies participated in the symposium, including representatives from INTERPOL, the U.S. Department of State, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Attendees learned about resources available through the OJJDP-supported National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, missing and abducted children programs in tribal communities, abductions involving multiple states and international borders, and FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.

Ms. Garry applauded attendees for their roles in developing the AMBER Alert networks, collecting and disseminating information for alerts, monitoring the cases, and conducting followups.

left quotePeople who would abduct and exploit our children are more mobile and tech-savvy than ever before. They are finding new ways to lure and entice our children, so we must be diligent and stay one step ahead of them.right quote

—OJJDP Acting Administrator Eileen M. Garry

OJJDP continues to strengthen the AMBER Alert program through the National AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance program. The program uses training and technology to help recover missing, endangered, or abducted children through the coordinated efforts of law enforcement, media, transportation, the public, and other partners.

Currently, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 22 international jurisdictions have AMBER Alert plans. More than 100 tribal communities have partnered with their state or regional AMBER Alert plans, and more than 1,500 tribal officials and community members have attended trainings or participated in technical assistance programs.


More information on the AMBER Alert program is available online.