Raj KAJ (scottobear) wrote,

6781 - Amber Alert links up to Web Monday

The nation's Amber Alert system will be connected to the Web starting today, a major technological boost that users say should make it easier for the system to thwart child abductions by transmitting messages over pagers, cell phones and BlackBerrys.Site Meter

"The tag line on all this is, 'We'll all be looking for you,' " said Chris Warner, president of E2C, the Scottsdale, Ariz., company that has engineered Amber Alert's Web portal. "This unbelievable technology is going to make that possible."

Until now, Amber Alerts have been based on radio technology, meaning that messages have depended on the nation's old and sometimes unreliable emergency alert system to notify citizens of natural disasters and other civil emergencies.

The new Web-based system can process and transmit emergency information more quickly and to a wider variety of devices. It comes with software that pinpoints the location of an abduction and sends out emergency messages targeted to that locale.

Amber Alert managers in 11 states will have access to the new portal beginning at 5 p.m. ET today, Warner said. Use of the system is expected to expand to the 49 states that have statewide Amber Alert systems. Hawaii has no statewide system but has several local alert networks.

Targeted messages could help overcome one of the current system's weaknesses: a scattershot technology that sends emergency messages beyond the area where they are most relevant.

"If there's an abduction in Kansas and the message goes right away to Maryland, that can be counterproductive," said John Rabun, a former police officer and chief operating officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "It desensitizes people to the alerts."

The Web portal plan is expected to be announced in Seattle at a meeting of the National Governors Association.

Amber Alerts are named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and killed in 1996 while riding her bicycle near her home in Arlington, Texas. To aid in her search, local police commandeered the area's emergency broadcast system, posting descriptions on radio and television.

Since then, the system has attempted to get messages out through several radio methods, including interactive highway signs and even state lottery machines. It has succeeded in recovering 137 abducted children since 1998, when the first safe recovery was recorded, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Speed is considered vital in recovering an abducted child. The Justice Department estimates that three of every four victims are killed within three hours of being taken.

Based on a study of 1999 statistics, the Justice Department in 2002 estimated that 797,500 children were reported missing, including 203,900 who were taken by family members. About 58,200 were abducted by non-family members, the report said, though only 115 were victims of "stereotypical kidnappings."

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