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AMBER Alert Frequently Asked Questions

What is the AMBER Alert Plan?
Provides descriptive information about the child and the perpetrator, if known, to the public in the hope of enlisting public support in the search efforts.
  • Child abduction alert notification plan to notify citizens of an abduction
  • Utilizes the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to inform the public of an abduction
  • The ultimate goal is to save the life of the child
What about Child Abductions in the United States?
Crimes against children, particularly cases involving nonfamily abductions, continue to be an area of concern for law enforcement authorities. Information gleaned from national studies conducted on this topic has revealed that children abducted with the intent to commit homicide are killed within the first hours to one day of the abduction. Time is critical in saving the lives of abducted children. The creation of the PA AMBER Alert Child Abduction Response Plan is an effort to enhance law enforcement’s ability to respond to this issue in the hope of preventing the victimization of children in Pennsylvania.
Who developed the AMBER Alert Plan?
The Plan originated in Texas in memory of Amber Hagerman, an abduction and murder victim. The Pennsylvania State Police, with the cooperation and assistance of other sponsors developed the plan for Pennsylvania.
What is the Activation Criteria?
Law enforcement and the media worked together to establish the activation criteria.  The criteria were established so that the plan would only be used in appropriate cases.  The media and the public must understand the time constraints law enforcement encounter when a child is reported missing. 
In order for the Pennsylvania AMBER Alert Plan to be activated, law enforcement must be satisfied the following criteria have been met:
  • The abducted child must be under eighteen (18) years of age
  • The abducted child is believed to be in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury
  • Additional factors are considered in the decision making process as to whether or not to activate the PA AMBER Alert Plan. These factors include, but are not limited to: availability of descriptive information which could assist in the recovery of the child, time elapsed since the child was last seen, and reliability of witness(es).

The plan is limited to “abducted” children, and, therefore, excludes children believed to be runaways or thrownaways from home.

How does the Activation Process work? 
Police receive information of an abduction and initiate an investigation.
Upon confirmation of an abduction meeting the criteria, police will notify the Pennsylvania State Police by telephone and through the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Assistance Network (C.L.E.A.N.) computer.
The Pennsylvania State Police will issue a statewide alert message to all law enforcement in Pennsylvania through C.L.E.A.N. to notify them of the abduction.
The following methods of dissemination can occur concurrently:

EAS is activated to notify citizens of any and all pertinent information regarding the abduction.
The Pennsylvania State Police posts the abduction information to this Web Site.
If applicable, the Pennsylvania State Police notifies the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for posting of information on roadway message signs and highway advisory radio.
The Pennsylvania State Police contacts the Pennsylvania Lottery Commission to disseminate the information to their retailers.
Secondary disseminations are coordinated through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 
Investigating law enforcement agency will notify the Pennsylvania State Police at 877-777-9975 of critical updates / recovery / cancellations.

What is the public’s role in the plan?
By swiftly alerting the public of an abduction, the public can assist in the search efforts for the abducted child.  The Public is not to take police action, but can assist police by reporting sightings of the child, perpetrator, or other associated information.
Anyone with information about the abduction should immediately notify the police by calling  911.
What is law enforcement’s role in the plan?
Expeditiously gather information about the abduction.

What is the Media’s role in the plan?

The media has at its disposal the ability to notify large numbers of citizens of an abduction in an extremely short period of time.  Their role is to get the word out as quickly as possible to augment the search process.
Where will the plan be used?
The Plan can be activated to alert the public of an abduction anywhere within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the Emergency Alert System.  The Plan can also notify other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies within surrounding states.
What is AlertPA?
"AlertPA" will send AMBER Alert Information to any device registered to receive the PA AMBER Alert notifications. Depending on the characteristics of the individual device, i.e., how many characters are available, the entire context of the message may not appear. The entire text of all messages will be posted to the main page of this web site. You can sign up for AlertPA by going to their website.

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