Resources for Law Enforcement

California Child Safety AMBER Network

  • Background

    Unfortunately tragedies have highlighted the importance of a cooperative effort among law enforcement agencies, media outlets, and the public in responding to child abduction incidents. This is especially important when you consider a study by the United States Department of Justice, which found that 74 percent of children who were abducted, and later found murdered, were killed within three hours of being taken.

    In response to this need, a statewide child abduction notification system was implemented on July 30, 2002. This system, the California Child Safety AMBER Network, is partially modeled after the original Amber Alert Program developed in 1996 following the abduction and murder of 9-year old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas. Although it is modeled after the plan developed in Texas, California’s plan utilizes several additional resources to aid in the dissemination of child abduction information throughout the state.

    The California plan, which addresses issues required as a result of the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 415, requires law enforcement agencies to request activation of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) in response to a report of a child abduction incident.


CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL – STATEWIDE AMBER ALERT COORDINATOR 

A statewide child abduction notification system was implemented on July 30, 2002, and is chaired by the California Highway Patrol (CHP).  This system, the California Child Safety AMBER Network, is partially modeled after the original Amber Alert Program developed in 1996 following the abduction and subsequent murder of 9-year old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas.  Although it is modeled after the plan developed in Texas, California’s plan utilizes several additional resources to aid in the immediate dissemination of child abduction information throughout the state.

The California Child Safety AMBER Network is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement, transportation, and media to rapidly disseminate information about a suspect and victim to law enforcement agencies and the public when a child has been abducted.

KEY PARTNERS

The California Broadcasters Association, California Department of Transportation, California Lottery, Facebook, Twitter, California law enforcement agencies, and the media.

ACTIVATION PROCESS

California AMBER Alerts are initiated solely by California law enforcement agencies.  Law enforcement agencies must follow strict activation criteria before an alert is activated.  The agency's administration must give approval before initiating an AMBER Alert.  The primary consideration in the development of the activation criteria is the identification of those abducted children who are at the greatest risk of serious bodily injury or death. 

In order for the California AMBER Alert Plan to be activated, law enforcement must be satisfied the following criteria must have been met:

•    A confirmed abduction has occurred, or the child has been taken by anybody including, but not limited to, parents and/or guardians.

•    The victim is 17 years of age or younger, or of proven mental or physical disability.

•    There is reason to believe the victim is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. 

•    There is information available that, if disseminated to the general public, could assist in the safe recovery of the victim.

 

The AMBER Alert cannot be used for custodial disputes or runaway cases which do not meet the criteria.  Here are the steps a law enforcement agency must take once it has been determined the criteria have been met:

•    If the agency is within a CARE county (Los Angeles, Orange, Alameda, or San Diego) they will first contact their local Sheriff's Department.  CARE counties are authorized to activate an in-county only alert.

•    If the agency is not within a CARE county, contact the CHP’s Emergency Notification and Tactical Alert Center to activate the alert. 

•    The agency should be prepared to provide all pertinent information regarding the incident with current photos of the victim and, if possible, the suspect. 


DISTRIBUTION PROCESS

In addition to assisting with statewide or regional AMBER Alerts, the CHP can assist local law enforcement agencies with the use of other resources to disseminate information to assist with the recovery of an abducted child.  The following is a general overview of other resources that may be used to disseminate child abduction information:

The California Highway Patrol will distribute AMBER Alerts to law enforcement, broadcasters, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), California Lottery, Ports of Entry, and the public. 

•    Be-On-The-Lookout (BOLO) – BOLOs will be issued/broadcasted by CHP Communication Centers to CHP personnel located in the affected areas.  The BOLOs will contain suspect, victim, and vehicle information, if available. 

•    CHP will use the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to initially notify California broadcasters of the alert. 

•    Pertinent information, including photographs, will be posted to Twitter @CHPAlerts.

•    Media outlets will post alerts on their websites.

•    Numerous private businesses have agreed to put the alerts on their electronic signs.


WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERTS PROGRAM (WEA)

The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) will allow consumers with WEA-capable smartphones and feature phones to automatically receive free AMBER Alert messages, along with Presidential, Public Safety[CT1] , and Imminent Threat Alerts.  When a subscriber with a WEA enabled cellular phone is within range of the activated cell tower, they will receive the AMBER Alerts, even if the wireless customer is not from the area.  The program is an "opt out" program, meaning subscribers do not have to enroll in the program to receive alerts.  The message includes an audible tone followed by a text-like message with a link to pertinent information.

CHANGEABLE MESSAGE SIGNS 

Changeable Message Signs (CMS) are operated by the California Department of Transportation. CMS are used to disseminate real-time traffic safety and congestion information to the public as they utilize the highway transportation system.

CMS will contain the following message when the suspect's vehicle information is known:

•      Child Abduction

•      Vehicle Description

•      License Plate Number


NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a non-profit organization established to help prevent child abductions and sexual exploitation; help find missing children; and assist victims of child abductions and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them.  NCMEC can provide valuable resources to law enforcement agencies investigating a child abduction.  For AMBER Alerts, NCMEC coordinates a nationwide secondary distribution program i.e. Internet providers, Facebook, trucking associations, airport security, Twitter, Nixle, etc.  More information about NCMEC’s programs can be found at www.missingkids.com.

 [CT1]Info according to FEMA WEA website

More Information


  • Cal OES
    Cal OES

    Produced by the Child Abduction Training Project of the Center for Innovation and Resources, Inc. (CIR) in partnership with the California Child Abduction Task Force with funding from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), made possible through the United States Department of Justice, Victims of Crime Act.

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