[Montgomery, Ala.] Today, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is announcing a partnership with Facebook to send AMBER Alerts to the social network’s community to help find missing children.
“Because of the time sensitive and critical nature of the AMBER Alerts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) values the partnership with the Alabama Broadcasters Association (ABA) and media outlets throughout the state for the distribution of notifications and the re-broadcast of AMBER Alerts to the public,” said Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier. “With the new expansion of the AMBER Alert program to Facebook, the message of a missing child can reach more people faster.”
“We are excited to see the AMBER Alert program growing with this addition of Facebook. Radio and TV stations across Alabama and the rest of the country have been using their own Facebook “accounts” to distribute AMBER Alert information for some time. Now, with alerts being geo targeted from Facebook – even more people will see them and increase the likelihood of the safe recoveries of children,” said Sharon M. Tinsley, President of the Alabama Broadcasters Association.
People have already been using Facebook to help find missing children. Last year, an 11-year-old girl was safely recovered after a South Carolina motel employee recognized a photo of the girl in an AMBER alert she saw on Facebook. The woman called the police, and the child was found unharmed.
“For most people, these alerts will be rare because they will only go to people who are in a position to help – those specifically within the designated search area. If you get an alert on Facebook it means there is an active search for an abducted child going on in your area. The alert will provide the critical information you need to potentially help reunite a child with his or her family,” said Emily Vacher, who leads this initiative for the Facebook Trust and Safety team
Facebook’s distribution system will send AMBER Alerts to people’s News Feeds to quickly disseminate detailed information about the child to the people who are in the best position to help – those in the designated search area.
Here’s how Facebook will complement existing AMBER Alert distribution systems:
- Reach – Facebook’s distribution system will get the AMBER Alert to everyone who is logged into Facebook (on both mobile and desktop) during the alert if they are within the designated search area as specified by law enforcement.
- Comprehensive Information – the alert will include important details about the child such as a photo, description, location of the abduction, and any other available information that can be provided to the public to aid in the search for the missing child.
- Community Involvement – the Facebook system enables people to share the alert with friends and link to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for the most up-to-date information about the case.
AMBER Alerts are a child abduction alert system that started in the United States in 1996. AMBER stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas. The decision to declare an AMBER Alert is made by each police organization (in many cases, the state police or highway patrol) investigating the abduction. Public information in an AMBER Alert usually includes the name and description of the abductee, a description of the suspected abductor, and a description and license plate number of the abductor's vehicle. The AMBER Alert system issues media alerts when a law enforcement agency determines that a child was abducted and is in imminent danger.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) was created by Act 2013-67 and represents the consolidation and realignment of 12 state law enforcement agencies/functions into one entity. ALEA is responsible for the functions and missions of the former Alabama Department of Homeland Security, Department of Public Safety, Alabama Bureau of Investigation, Fusion Center, Criminal Justice Information Center, Marine Police, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Enforcement, Department of Revenue Enforcement, Forestry Commission Investigations, Agricultural and Industry Investigations, Public Service Commission Enforcement, and Office of Prosecution Service Computer Forensics Lab.