Are AMBER Alerts issued for all missing children?

AMBER Alerts are issued for abducted children when the situation meets the AMBER Alert criteria. When a child is missing, law enforcement can act swiftly to help recover the child, by developing search and rescue teams or by bringing dogs to the scene to track the scent. AMBER Alert is only one tool that law enforcement can use to find abducted children. AMBER Alerts should be reserved for those cases that meet the AMBER criteria. Overuse of AMBER Alert could result in the public becoming desensitized to Alerts when they are issued.

What are the criteria for activation?

1. Law enforcement must confirm a child has been abducted.
2. The child must be under the age of 16 or have a proven mental or physical disability.
3. Law enforcement must believe the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death.
4. There is enough descriptive information about the child, abductor, and/or suspect’s vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert will help.

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How does the process work?

The investigating local law enforcement agency contacts the Illinois State Police providing details of the abduction. If the AMBER Notification Plan criteria are met, activation is initiated. The Illinois State Police then ensures the child abduction information is disseminated to the broadcast community through the National Weather Service NOAA Weather Radio and secondary blast fax/email, posted here and on all Illinois state websites, and the information displayed on Department of Transportation and Tollway roadway message boards.

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What is the public's role in the plan?

The public can play an important role in the recovery of a child, as they can be the eyes and ears in a child abduction. If a listener sees the child, abductor and/or vehicle in question, the listener should contact their local law enforcement agency or 911 with the information to include location, street address or highway, clothing description, physical characteristics, any observable behaviors on the part of the abductor or child and the time caller witnessed sighting.

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How long has the plan been around?

Illinois’ AMBER Notification Plan has been in effect since January 30, 2002.

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What area does the alert cover?

For AMBER Alerts, the state of Illinois is divided into three areas for distribution.  See Map.  An alert can be issued in any or all of those areas.

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What is the role of the media?

Once the child abduction information is received through the National Weather Service and/or secondary dissemination of email or fax, radio and television stations have the option on whether or not to re-broadcast the information. Large audiences can be reached through the media, thereby enhancing everyone's efforts in safely recovering an abducted child.

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How Does the AMBER Alert Plan help children and Families?

The establishment of AMBER Alert plans in all 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and the expansion of the program into Indian Country and our northern and southern borders mark an important milestone in our efforts to prevent child abductions. No matter where a child is abducted, communities and law enforcement work together to recover missing children quickly and safely. The numbers of recovered children speak for themselves. In 2001, only two children were recovered due to AMBER Alert. Since 2001 over 600 children were recovered because of an AMBER Alert. Expansion of the AMBER Alert program is making a difference in saving children's lives.

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How are AMBER Alerts distributed to cell phones?

WEA logo

AMBER Alerts are distributed to cell phones as part of the AMBER Alert program's secondary distribution. As of Dec. 31, 2012, they are distributed through the Wireless Emergency Alert program which is also known as the Commercial Mobile Alert System.

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What is the Wireless Emergency Alert program/Commercial Mobile Alert System?

The Wireless Emergency Alert/Commercial Mobile Alert System is a program operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that distributes notifications from authorized federal, state, local and tribal government agencies that alert customers with capable devices of imminent threats to safety or an emergency situation. The messages are intended as a supplement to the existing Emergency Alert System, which broadcasts alerts over radio and television.

It was created as part of FEMA's Integrated Public Alert and Warning System to meet requirements for an alert system as specified by the Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act (Title VI of P.L. 109-347). FEMA worked with the Federal Communications Commission and the wireless industry to create a system that would be able to relay alerts through cell phones.

In addition to AMBER Alerts, the program includes National Weather Service, Presidential and Imminent Threat Alerts. If you own a capable mobile device, it will automatically receive these alerts when you are in the geographic area where an alert has been issued.

The alerts are sent on a special wireless carrier channel called Cell Broadcast, and are thus not affected by congestion on the voice or SMS text channels. The alerts are transmitted simultaneously to all mobile devices within range of the cellular carrier towers in the affected area. The system does not need to know your mobile number and it does not track your whereabouts; it simply "broadcasts" out the alert and any mobile devices that can hear the alert will display it to the user.

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Where can I go to receive more information if I receive an AMBER Alert on my cell phone?

If you are notified through a Wireless Emergency Alert/Commercial Mobile Alert System message that there is an AMBER Alert in your area, you can consult local media or visit https://www.amberalert.com/public/en/  or www.missingkids.com or www.amberalert.gov for more detail about the AMBER Alert.

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How Can I Help?

The Illinois AMBER Alert Notification Plan relies on your help. The Task Force is not a state funded program and therefore does not receive state or federal funds.  We rely on donations from corporate partners and private citizens.  There are many things you can do individually and at your work to help find missing children, prevent sexual exploitation, and keep children safer on the Internet.  Click here to see how you can help.

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Contact Info:

Illinois AMBER Plan Task Force
Child Safety Coordinator
Illinois State Police
2200 S. Dirksen Pkwy., Ste 238
Springfield, Illinois 62703-4528

1 (800) 843-5763


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