The AMBER Alert System began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed up with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. AMBER stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was created as a legacy to 9-year old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then brutally murdered. Other states and communities soon instituted similar plans as the idea was adopted across the nation. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the U.S. Department of Justice assumed responsibility for co-ordination at the national level.
Modeled after the Texas program, the New York State AMBER Alert Plan is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement, broadcasters and others to immediately involve the public, especially motorists, in the search for an abducted child.
Investigating agencies submit information directly to the New York State Police Special Victims Unit in Albany. Through the use of a blast fax and email system capable of rapidly disseminating information, details are sent to broadcasters and law enforcement agencies in the area of the abduction. Details may include descriptions of the child, abductor and/or involved automobiles. They can be seen or heard on: television stations, radio stations, highway variable message signs, lottery in-store ticket terminals, NYS Thruway Authority service areas, DMV issuing office message boards, New York State AMBER, New York State Police, New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services websites and New York State Police Social Media.
Experience has shown that excessive or inconsistent use of the AMBER Alert Plan diminishes program integrity and effectiveness. Not only is the relationship between broadcasters and law enforcement harmed, but the public can become apathetic. To maintain program integrity, stringent activation criteria have been established and are strictly followed. The program is a cooperative effort between:
- New York State Police
- NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services
- NYS Broadcasters Association and local broadcasters statewide
- NYS Office of Emergency Management
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- NYS Department of Transportation
- NYS Association of Chiefs of Police
- NYS Sheriffs' Association
- NYS Thruway Authority
- NYS Department of Motor Vehicles
- NYS Lottery
- Lamar Advertising
- NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission