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Amber Alerts represent the best in Minnesotans

April 17, 2017

Amber Alert graphic

At their core, people – especially Minnesotans – are good and want to help others out, whether they know them or not. There is perhaps no better evidence of this than the Amber Alert. Because let’s face it: When you see one on your phone or the TV or a message board along the highway, you can’t help but think, “What if that were my child?” You want to help reunite that scared, suffering family.

That could be the reason why Amber Alerts have been so successful in Minnesota. Since the program’s inception in our state in 2002, Amber Alerts have been issued for 32 children, and all but one have been found alive.

For example, in 2013, a Minnesota Amber Alert went out for an eight-month-old child, who had been abducted from his home by an acquaintance of his mother. A teenager received the Amber Alert on her cell phone, saw the vehicle in question, and told her dad about it, who notified police. It was the first time in the United States that a cell phone alert had led to the successful recovery of a child.

So how do Amber Alerts work? When a person goes missing, the local law enforcement agency has to answer three questions:

  1. Is the victim 17 years old or younger?
  2. Is the victim in danger of serious bodily harm or death?
  3. Is there information available that the public could use to help find the child and/or the suspect?

If the answer to all three questions is yes, the agency contacts the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). After the agency gathers information and photographs of the child the BCA issues an Amber Alert over several networks and systems. These ensure the Amber Alert gets broadcast on radio, TV, all media outlets, all compatible cell phones, MnDOT message boards, social media and ClearChannel billboards, among others. The result is that the state is positively blanketed with images of and information about the missing child.

Sometimes when a person goes missing, not all three criteria are met. When that’s the case, the BCA doesn’t issue an Amber Alert, but they might activate the Minnesota Crime Alert Network to notify the public and request information on the case – which means Minnesotans can still help.

If you don’t automatically receive Amber Alerts on your cell phone, you may have accidentally opted out. You can learn how to opt back in or make sure you receive Amber Alerts via other channels by checking out the BCA’s Amber Alert webpage.

Simply put, Amber Alerts represent what’s best about Minnesotans: everyday people working together to help their fellow citizens avoid pain and tragedy.