Following the second busiest year for Oregon’s AMBER Alert program, the Oregon State Police (OSP) joins the U.S. Department of Justice, AMBER Alert Coordinators at state, regional, tribal and local levels, state Missing Children Clearinghouses and partners commemorating the nation’s eighth AMBER Alert Awareness Day on Monday, January 13, 2014. In support of the national AMBER Alert Awareness Day, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed a proclamation declaring January 13, 2014 "Oregon AMBER Alert Awareness Day". (link above)
The anniversary of the AMBER Alert program sadly remembers the abduction 18 years ago in Arlington, Texas of Amber Hagerman as she rode her bicycle and was later brutally murdered. The AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert network was created after her tragic death to provide emergency broadcast messages to the public when law enforcement determines a child has been abducted. All 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia have established AMBER Alert plans, creating the most significant child recovery network in the history of our country.
Since the program’s inception, the AMBER Alert network has helped find and safely recover more than 672 children across the country. During the 11 years since the State of Oregon announced implementation of a statewide AMBER Alert Plan, Oregon has activated an AMBER Alert 22 times for cases originating in Oregon and from other states. Twenty-four children who were the focus of the AMBER Alert were safely recovered.
The AMBER Alert plan is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies and local broadcasters to send an emergency alert to the public when a child has been abducted and it is believed the child’s life is in danger. During 2013, four AMBER Alerts were activated in Oregon for abducted children; half of which were out-of-state requests after information indicated the child and suspect may be traveling in our state. The following are brief reviews of this year’s activations:
* On January 23, 2013, a 5-year old boy was taken from his home by 36-year old male after assaulting the boy’s mother and an adult male friend with a hammer. The Dalles Police Department responded to investigate and requested OSP activate an AMBER Alert. About an hour and 40 minutes after the reported abduction, an AMBER Alert was activated in Oregon and information distributed to media partners and the public. OSP staff established a tip line call center and this was the first AMBER Alert activation in Oregon that also alerted the public via an important secondary distribution avenue through the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) program, which is also known as the Commercial Mobile Alert System. About 90 minutes after the AMBER Alert was activated, the child was safely recovered and the suspect arrested.
* On August 7, 2013, an AMBER Alert was activated in Oregon following a request from San Diego, California County Sheriff’s Office for two children, ages 16 and 8, last seen August 3rd believed to be with a 40-year old homicide suspect. A vehicle related to the AMBER Alert was thought to have been spotted in northern California northbound possibly toward southeast Oregon. Additional activations were done in Idaho and Washington. Three days later, the suspect was killed and 16-year old girl safely rescued at a remote campsite in Idaho after citizens who had seen information about the AMBER Alert reported an encounter with the suspect and girl. The girl’s 8-year old brother was later positively identified as another homicide victim.
* On October 12, 2013, an AMBER Alert was activated in Oregon for Gresham Police Department for a 2-year old girl and adult male suspect following a shooting. The suspect and child were spotted later that night in a Gresham neighborhood and he was taken into custody. The child was recovered safe, but sadly her mother died from injuries related to the shooting.
* On December 5, 2013, an AMBER Alert was activated in Oregon following a request from Kennewick, Washington Police Department for a 14-year old female believed abducted by a 19-year old male. The AMBER Alert was deactivated later after Oregon was notified there was no information indicating the girl was in our state. Both the girl and suspect were later confirmed to be in Mexico.
A brief look at Oregon’s AMBER Alert program shows:
* The first activation occurred March 13, 2003 out of Redmond, Oregon
* The last activation occurred December 5, 2013 for Kennewick, Washington Police Department
* Eight of the 22 activations were from out-of-state requests (5 – Washington, 3 – California)
* All 24 children that were focus of AMBER Alerts recovered safely
Oregon State Police is the designated law enforcement agency in our state to which local law enforcement agencies contact to initiate an AMBER Alert activation while keeping in perspective the following criteria:
* Law enforcement confirms a child has been abducted.
* The child is 17 years or younger*.
* Law enforcement officials believe that the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death.
* There is adequate descriptive information available to believe that its dissemination to the public could help locate the child, suspect and/or suspect’s vehicle.
* The child's name and other critical data elements - including the child abduction (CA) and AMBER Alert (AA) flags must be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.
(* The alert system is not used when a child runs away or if the incident involves a custodial situation)
In Oregon, once a law enforcement agency investigation confirms a child abduction has occurred, the lead agency contacts the OSP AMBER Alert Coordinator at the Northern Command Center to review the investigative facts and verify the abduction meets AMBER Alert activation criteria. Upon determination the case meets criteria for an AMBER Alert in Oregon, the following steps are taken:
* OSP enters information into the AMBER Alert web portal so AMBER Alert details are placed on the AMBER Alert website (http://www.amberalert.com/en/alerts/state/?type=oregon). The AMBER Alert information is forwarded via email and cell phone text message to those who register on the AMBER Alert.com website, and is posted on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) website (www.missingkids.com) .
* OSP notifies Oregon Emergency Management (OEM) to initiate broadcast of EAS message.
* OSP notifies Oregon Department of Transportation for placement of information on highway variable message signs.
* OSP AMBER Alert Coordinator notifies NCMEC, which redistributes the alerts, per a request by the U.S. Department of Justice, to a network of secondary distributors that includes internet service providers, digital billboards, and others. This notification includes information for consideration to be sent out through the WEA program. The decision on what goes out in WEA is made by each state’s AMBER Alert program coordinator. (More information about WEA and AMBER Alerts is available at http://www.missingkids.com/amber/wea.
* OSP and/or the lead law enforcement agency send news release announcing activation and deactivation of the AMBER Alert. During activation, update news release(s) may be sent with important information needed to help safely recover the child. Updates will also be made to the AMBER Alert website to keep the public informed while the search for the child and suspect occurs.
Additional assistance that OSP may provide includes:
* Deploying CID detective(s) and analyst to assist lead agency.
* Activation of AMBER Alert TIP line phone number (1-866-5AMBER5 / 1-866-526-2375) and forwarding calls to lead agency.
* If requested, activation of OSP Call Center with trained call takers who will receive and forward tips to lead agency.
Throughout each year, an AMBER Alert Review Committee meets to review all requests, whether an AMBER Alert is activated or not, for lessons learned that will help maintain the program’s integrity and the public’s confidence.
The public is urged to react only to AMBER Alerts from authorized sources such as: Oregon State Police or other law enforcement news releases, the Oregon media via Oregon AMBER Alert activation, Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) for AMBER Alerts, or Missingkids.com / National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Anyone may sign-up at no cost to be notified of Oregon’s AMBER Alerts through the AMBER Alert web portal and via Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/amberalert ("like" the State you are interested in receiving AMBER Alerts from). Oregon also joins the NCMEC encouraging wireless subscribers to receive AMBER Alerts as part of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program. Another resource of information about the Wireless Emergency Alerts program is available at http://ctia.it/RzEVLN.
More information about Oregon’s AMBER Alert Plan is available on the Oregon State Police website at: