By Sophia Chistensen
Buzzing aggressively, AMBER Alerts have been sneaking up on our phones and TVs since 1996. The name AMBER stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response,” originating after the abduction and murder of nine year old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas. The emergency response has successfully brought home about 20 percent of children who were abducted, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. While AMBER Alerts have been historically helpful, they are seriously outdated and a far from perfect system that requires serious improvement.
There are more bugs and issues within the system compared to the protection it provides for the children. As disappointing as it is to say, AMBER Alerts prove time inefficiency. Almost three-quarters of children who are kidnapped are murdered within three hours of the abduction. In a time span of three years, about 70 percent of AMBER alert notices went out after that miniscule time slot. Sending out AMBER Alert’s is a timely process as they must meet specific criteria, and it takes time to verify those criteria to decide whether it meets those conditions. Therefore, AMBER Alerts often turn out to be false alarms.
Although there have undeniably been successes with AMBER Alerts where the abductor gave up due to their information being put on blast, the negatives outweigh the positives. AMBER Alerts reveal to the abductor what the public knows about their personal information and whereabouts. Abductors can take countermeasures in order to remain out of sight from the public such as changing cars, changing hair color, etc. In different situations, AMBER Alerts constantly produce false calls due to their vague and poorly targeted information. The inefficiency creates a tendency to take away from an important alternative: police resources. Family or friends often turn to AMBER Alerts in face of child abduction when the better call could have been going directly to the police and utilizing their resources rather than relying on the public.
AMBER Alerts have also generated harsh backlash from a plethora of people who are snuck up on by the buzzing. The public’s pushback against AMBER Alerts have grown exponentially as people are getting woken up in the middle of the night and hundreds of miles away from the abduction. With constant phone calls and abductions that are not even in the area, people have been getting what’s known as “AMBER-fatigue.” As much as people want to help and would eagerly do so in a heartbeat, sometimes it is just too out of the way. According to California Highway Patrol, and several social media accounts, people have complained endlessly being confused and angry with the loud, obnoxious tones blowing up their phones. With several alerts similar to the AMBER Alert such as the Silver Alert and Blue Alert, people have tried to opt out of the system or disable the alarms, and have simply become fatigued. Considering these alerts rely on the public, there needs to be a different approach in order to get the majority of the public on the alert’s side. Gratefully, the system has rescued 822 children from harm and although any number is better than none, there needs to be another community alarm system in order to tackle the issue of child abduction. AMBER Alert’s are the only means of notice law enforcement uses for abducted children. Considering the rarity of rescues and public complaints, there needs to be another means of linkage between the government and public.