Understanding Amber Alerts

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare – your child. Missing.

The Indiana State Police has issued two Amber Alerts in the past two days – which is highly unusual for the state of Indiana according to Andre Clark, Program Director for Missing Children and the Amber and Silver Alert programs. Nevertheless, these alerts have put parents on high worry status and heightened anxiety surrounding this terrifying prospect.

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With the recent days’ history in mind, we want all of our readers – parents, neighbors, community members, everyone – to understand what an Amber Alert is, why they are issued and what you can do: 
What is an Amber Alert?
  • An Amber Alert is when law enforcement agencies immediately alert the public, typically via television, radio, and now social media, when a “qualifying” child abduction is confirmed.
Understanding Amber Alerts _ Indy's Child
Statewide text alerts like this one are automatically issued in the event of an Amber Alert.
What is a “qualifying” abduction?
  • A child who is under the age of 18.
  • The child must be believed to be abducted and in serious danger. This determination is made by the local law enforcement agency and then communicated to the State Police.
  • There must be enough descriptive information to communicate to the public, such as a description of the child as well as information about their last known whereabouts, possible abductor, and any vehicles involved.
  • A law enforcement agency must make a request to the State Police to issue an Amber Alert.
How is the public notified?
  • The Federal Communications Commission’s policy is that everyone receives Amber Alerts unless they choose to opt out. Indiana only issues statewide alerts, so unless you have selected not to receive them, all Indiana residents’ phones should have gone off twice in the last few days, according to Clark.
  • Alerts are also communicated out to news agencies, posted on digital roadway signs and highlighted by social media sites like Facebook.
What is the purpose of the Amber Alert?
  • Andre Clark says, “The purpose is to make the public the eyes and ears of law enforcement.”
  • The expectation of the State Police is that if you see the people or vehicle mentioned in the Amber Alert, you will call local law enforcement or 1-888-58AMBER and report the information. “Any lead is a good lead,” said Clark.
Understanding Amber Alerts _ Indy's Child
Here, an Amber Alert notification is immediately broadcast on Facebook in order to notify all local users.
Why do Amber Alerts work?
  • According to Andre Clark, “The Amber Alert program is one of the most effective programs ever designed by the Federal government.” Why? Because the public is always concerned about the wellbeing of children.
  • Time equates to distance, Clark explained, so the immediacy of the Amber Alert is crucial for its success.
What is the role of the State Police?
  • The State Police issues the Amber Alert within one hour of an agency providing them the information.
  • They also offer assistance and support with the investigation – including additional manpower – upon the request of the requesting agency.
  • They cooperate with other agencies such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
What can you do?
  • Exercise caution but do NOT panic:
    • Amber Alerts are not frequent in Indiana.
    • This year, there have been seven requests and only three activations {two in the last several days}.
    • “Indiana as a whole does not have a problem with stranger abductions,” Clark said. Almost always, abductions are committed by a non-custodial parent or relative.
  • Consider it your civic duty and make sure you are opted-in for Amber Alert notifications. These alerts are automatic unless you have gone through the steps to remove yourself. And if you have, take a moment to ask yourself why? YOU could be the hinge to finding a lost child. Alerts are only disseminated once to cell phones at the point of public notification. If you are opted in to receive a text message from your dry cleaner, the pharmacy or your favorite pizza place, then you can certainly handle being opted-in for infrequent Amber Alert notifications.
  • Take a moment to review the information in each Amber Alert.
    • You don’t need to know the child’s birthdate or family members but DO take a minute to review the car make/model and/or other key details. File them away.
  • Share, share, share. Use your social media channels and hit ‘Share’ to spread the word. You never know – maybe one of your friends or extended network contacts know the child’s location and can help.
  • It is difficult to know where your child is 24/7, but try your best to know their whereabouts and to teach them basic safety practices, Clark said.



Andre Clark, Program Director 1 with the State Police, Missing Children and Amber and Silver Alerts



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