What parents need to know about the AMBER Alert Plan - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

What parents need to know about the AMBER Alert Plan

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For parents, there's always the fear their child could go missing.

In the summer, kids are playing outside more, but research shows kids are at greatest risk of being abducted walking to and from school or school related activities. In Ohio last year, eight AMBER alerts were issued for missing children.

A parent's worst nightmare can happen in minutes; their child disappears at the hands of an abductor. Time is of the essence in the search.

"Unfortunately in most incidents where a child is abducted in the first three hours, the child is usually killed in those three hours," said Detective Pat Mondora, Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office.

Amber Hagerman's abduction and killing in Texas 18 years ago, forever changed law enforcement's approach to finding kidnapped kids across the country.

Rob Jackson, a representative of the Ohio AMBER Alert Advisory Committee, explained, "After that, the parents and local media and police department all worked together to develop an AMBER Alert plan."

The program, named in Amber's honor, sends out a call to action to the community to be on the lookout for the child and suspect. The word gets out through multiple platforms, including the Emergency Alert System that interrupts radio and TV broadcasts.

One of the latest ways the alerts are sent to the public is via a message similar to a text. Recently purchased smart phones are automatically enabled to receive this Wireless Emergency Alert.

"They may be the one person that's driving by the suspect during that and can help in the safe recovery of the child," Jackson said.

Police say a common misconception when a child goes missing is that an AMBER Alert should be issued but this is not always the case.

AMBER Alerts are reserved for when a child under 18 has been abducted and is in danger of serious bodily harm or death. It cannot be a family dispute or custody issue, unless the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death. Enough descriptive information concerning the circumstances, suspect, vehicle, and victim has to be available. In Mahoning County, the investigating police agency also has to recommend the alert.

Maggie McGee, Mahoning County 911 Director said, "These aren't routine. So you have to stay on top of it and do exercises to stay sharp."

The majority of cases in Ohio have involved family members and not strangers.

"They (AMBER Alerts) very much work. We've had four AMBER Alerts (so far) this year. All have been successful and safe recovery of the child," Jackson said.

Police want parents to know that you should not wait 24 hours to report a missing child or person. The sooner police know someone is missing, the quicker they can investigate and take action to track down the child.

If the circumstances surrounding a child's disappearance are unknown, police can issue an Endangered Missing Child Alert. It sends out a message through the same channels except the Emergency Alert System.


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