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National crime alert system required in this day and age



Published: Mon, August 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Perhaps it's the willingness of parents to come forward and publicly appeal for the safe return of their children, or the media's renewed focus on this human tragedy, but suddenly the nation is beginning to pay close attention to child-abduction cases.

And what we're seeing is frightening and worrisome.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, just over 250,000 children are abducted in an average year. Of those, 70 percent are snatched by a family member. The rest, according to the Inquirer, are taken by a friend, neighbor, caretaker or stranger.

And even though 99 percent of the children return home, the loss of even one abducted child is unacceptable.

Society has a duty to protect the innocent.

Over the past six years, the Amber Alert system has been gaining in popularity because of its effectiveness at notifying law enforcement agencies and the public about abductions. Twenty-six children who were abducted were rescued because law enforcement agencies, the media and the public were made aware of the details of the incidents.

National network

Yet, only 15 states currently operate the Amber Alert system. But that would change if two United States senators have their way. Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California have jointly proposed legislation to create a national network.

"The underlying premise is that time is the enemy in child-abduction cases," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va. "In 74 percent of the cases, the child is dead within three hours."

The Amber Alert system is named for Amber Hagerman, the nine-year-old Arlington, Texas, girl who was abducted and murdered in 1996. As a result of the alerts that are transmitted to law enforcement and television and radio stations through the Emergency Alert System created during the Cold War for use after a nuclear attack, missing children have become a national priority.

The federal bill sponsored by Hutchison and Feinstein would provide grants to buy equipment and train authorities.

While it is true that the expansion of the Amber system nationwide will create some problems -- for instance, false alarms will increase -- the record shows that the positives outweigh the negatives.




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