Attorney General Backs Iowa "Amber Alert" Plan
DES MOINES. Attorney General Tom Miller backs Gov. Tom Vilsack's initiative to create an "Amber Alert" plan for Iowa - a partnership between law enforcement agencies and broadcasters to send out an emergency alert to the public when a child is abducted and believed to be in grave danger. Quick tips from the public can be crucial to saving a child.
The Governor has asked the Iowa Department of Public Safety to convene a task force to set up an Iowa version of the alert system named after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnaped and murdered near Dallas TX in 1996. Amber Alert plans have been established in cities and metro areas and several states. California's Amber Alert plan is credited with helping save the lives of two teenagers abducted earlier this month.
"Child abduction can happen in Iowa," Miller said. "We hope it won't, but if a dangerous child abduction happens we could save lives by having an Amber Alert plan in Iowa."
Miller's office has been consulting with others in the National Association of Attorneys General to review the best features to incorporate from other Amber Plans being set up around the country.
Miller noted that law enforcement agencies cooperate well in Iowa with each other and with news and broadcast media. "An Amber Alert plan could only make communication even better," he said. Sue Toma, Executive Director of the Iowa Broadcasters Association, explained how broadcasters can participate in quickly publicizing key information.
Miller said, "It can be extraordinarily helpful to have thousands of eyes looking for a child or an abductor, and not just law enforcement."
Gov. Vilsack noted that public tips can help especially in the crucial first few hours after a child is abducted. Three-fourths of children who are kidnaped and murdered die within the first three hours of being abducted, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Amber plans generally include arrangements for law enforcement to activate alerts only for serious child abduction cases where a child is in danger of injury or death. There must be enough descriptive information about the child, the abductor, or the suspect's vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert may help the case. In most plans, radio and television stations initially interrupt programming to broadcast such key information, often using the Emergency Alert System already in place for telling the public about severe weather emergencies. TV stations may run "crawls" with alert information scrolling at the bottom of the screen.
The state's county sheriffs, police and State Patrol also were represented at the news conference led by Gov. Vilsack at the Hall of Law at the Iowa State Fair.
The Governor said he hoped the task force could report back within ninety days with details on how to establish an Amber Alert plan in Iowa.
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