Northwest NEWS

October 14, 2002

Local News

Statewide Amber Alert Plan

Gov. Gary Locke recently unveiled the Washington State Statewide Amber Plan, a new coordinated effort to help law enforcement quickly find abducted children.
   The statewide emergency alert system provides law enforcement agencies access to on-air radio and television stations across the state during the critical minutes following an initial child abduction report to local authorities. The goal of the Washington State Statewide Amber Plan is to disseminate accurate information statewide about the abduction of a child as quickly as possible.
   To activate the Washington State Statewide Amber Plan the following criteria must be met:
   A child has been taken and the incident is reported to law enforcement;
   The abducted child must be under 18 years of age;
   Law enforcement must believe the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death;
   There must be enough descriptive information to believe a broadcast will assist in the recovery of the child.
   Under the new plan, the Washington State Patrol will act as the main point of contact for local law enforcement agencies wanting to broadcast their local child-abduction information statewide through the state's Emergency Alert System, which is coordinated and operated by the state's Emergency Management Division.
   The new statewide plan will take advantage of the communications and dispatching capabilities of various 9-1-1 and dispatch centers around the state that have developed their procedures to become "Amber Ready" as well as other communications systems of state government.
   The State Patrol will coordinate with the Washington State Department of Transportation to put customized messages about an abducted child on the department's roadside reader boards. The State Patrol will also send a text message to all law enforcement agencies in the state about the case.
   The Washington Statewide Amber Plan is not intended to replace local Amber alert plans that have been or will be established around the state, but it will serve as a supplemental method of providing information to the public statewide.
   The Amber Alert Plan was created in memory of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted while riding her bicycle near her Arlington, Texas, home in January 1996. A neighbor was able to provide details about the car and abductor to law enforcement officials, but no system was in place to get the information to local residents quickly. Amber's body was found four days later.
   Since its implementation in various jurisdictions nationwide, national Amber alert plans have assisted in the safe recovery of at least 31 children.