State's Child Abduction Alert System Fully Implemented; Private Companies Join Effort
SAN ANTONIO - Gov. Rick Perry today announced that the Texas Amber Alert Network has been fully implemented and that more than a dozen private companies and industry associations have joined the network. Private industry participation will add thousands of telephone and electric technicians, convenience store clerks, motel clerks and other workers in the search for an abducted child.
"By participating in the Texas Amber Alert Network, these companies are making the search for an abducted child more comprehensive, more thorough and more likely to succeed," Perry said.
Perry also announced that 1,364 local law enforcement agencies have been provided secure passwords and registered with BeyondMissing.com, an Internet-based system that is a key component of the Texas Amber Alert Network. Getting local law enforcement agencies registered with BeyondMissing was the final step in getting the statewide network implemented.
The governor signed an executive order Aug. 12 creating the Texas Amber Alert Network and pledged that the new system would be implemented within 30 days.
"One month later, as promised, the Texas Amber Alert Network is functioning statewide so that the abduction of any child, in any part of this state, will trigger a series of actions that will ensure widespread and timely notification to the public," Perry said.
The private companies and associations that have joined the network will relay alerts to their employees via pagers and faxes. That means, for example, that a telephone technician could be the first to spot a suspected abductor's vehicle, or an abductor could find himself face-to-face with convenience store clerk who has been faxed a description of the suspect and his vehicle.
The Texas Amber Alert Network, designed to work in tandem with local alert systems, provides law enforcement agencies with a quick and simple way to notify media outlets of an abduction, activate the state's electronic highway signs and post information on a national Internet site.
Over the past month, the Governor's Office has conducted training sessions across the state, tested the system, issued passwords and instruction manuals to law enforcement agencies and worked with private companies that expressed interest in joining the network. As part of the network, the companies will receive notice of an abduction and will alert their employees to be on the lookout for the missing child, the suspect or a suspicious vehicle.
"By agreeing to participate in the Amber Alert Network, these companies are helping us to widen the net in the search for abducted children," Perry said.
Companies and associations that have joined the network include SBC Southwestern Bell; Valero, which owns Diamond Shamrock; Metrocall, Inc.; the One-Call Board of Texas; Cingular Wireless; Verizon Communications; International Council of Shopping Centers; American Electric Power Texas; CenterPoint Energy Entex; American Electric Power Texas; Oncor; VIA Metropolitan Transit of San Antonio; USAA; Texas Association of Realtors; the San Antonio Teachers Credit Union; and, the Texas and San Antonio Hotel and Motel Associations.
When a local law enforcement officer activates the plan, DPS will issue a notice through the National Weather Service to media outlets within a 200-mile radius of the kidnapping. DPS also will alert other law enforcement agencies of the abduction and will notify TxDOT to flash messages on electronic highway signs in the appropriate area warning motorists to watch for the suspect's vehicle. Local law enforcement agencies also will enter information into the BeyondMissing Internet site, which sends the information and a photo of the child to media outlets, law enforcement agencies and private partners within the search zone.
The Amber Alert concept, credited for helping safely locate an infant abducted in Abilene last month, originated in Texas after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was kidnapped from her Arlington home in 1996 and murdered. A neighbor was able to provide some details of a car believed to be involved in the abduction; however, no system was in place to get that information to the public quickly. After Amber's death, local residents worked with area radio stations to develop the Amber Alert.
Since that time, Amber Alert plans have been credited with helping to safely recover 31 children across the nation, according the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In Texas, the decision to issue an alert is made by local law enforcement officers using the following criteria:
- The abducted child is 17 or younger.
- The child has been abducted or unwillingly taken without permission from the child's parent or legal guardian.
- Law enforcement believes the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death.
- There is enough descriptive information about the child, the abductor or the suspect's vehicle to make a broadcast alert to the public helpful.
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