Creation of the AMBER Plan
The AMBER Plan was created in 1996 as a powerful legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who was kidnapped and murdered in Arlington, Texas. Law enforcement says Amber was dragged from her bicycle while riding in a shopping center near her home. Her body was found four days later. The news of Amber's murder outraged the entire community and mobilized residents to take action. Following her murder, concerned individuals contacted local radio stations in the Dallas area and suggested that the station broadcast special "alerts" over the airwaves to help find abducted children. In response to this recommendation and the community's concern for the safety of local children, the Dallas/Fort Worth Association of Radio Managers, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies in northern Texas, established the AMBER Plan. Initially it was only radio stations that participated. In 1999, eight area television stations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area joined the plan and began sending out these urgent bulletins.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has endorsed the use of the Amber Plan as used in Texas to assist in the most serious child abduction cases and is promoting the use of such emergency alert plans nationwide. The NCMEC has carefully assessed all current plans in use around the country and has developed a guidebook called, “AMBER Plan, America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response”. To review the guidebook, please log on to www.missingkids.com and click on the AMBER icon.
In August 2002, Governor Thomas J. Vilsack called on the Iowa Department of Public Safety to begin the process of organizing local and state law enforcement and the Iowa broadcast and media community to formulate an Iowa Amber Alert plan. During the first week of September 2002, Commissioner Kevin W. Techau invited Iowa law enforcement associations, broadcast and media, emergency management coordinators to examine the process needed within Iowa to implement a successful Amber Alert Program. On November 15, 2002 the Amber Alert Committee submitted a report outlining an Iowa Amber Alert to Governor Vilsack.
Iowa's Need for the AMBER Plan
On December 11, 2002 at 8:16 am the state of Nebraska issued their first AMBER Alert regarding 9 month old Brodjinique Dunn. A white Jeep Cherokee with Nebraska plates was stolen from a gas station in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The theft occurred when the driver, Brodjinique's grandmother, went to pay for gas. In the back seat of the vehicle was the victim, a 9 month old baby in a car seat. The state of Nebraska issued their first AMBER Alert since the mother, an Omaha resident, had driven across the state line to buy gas at a Council Bluffs gas station.
Since Iowa's Amber Alert was not yet in place, members of the Iowa Department of Public Safety partnered with authorities in Nebraska to notify Iowa Broadcasters of the Nebraska Amber Alert.
Word was received that the vehicle had been abandoned in an alley in Omaha, Nebraska. The child was found unhurt in the back of the vehicle just before 11 am. It was unknown whether the individual who stole the vehicle was influenced by the AMBER Alert, but authorities said it helped.
Commissioner Techau of the Iowa Department of Public Safety states "The fact that authorities in both Nebraska and Iowa worked together shows when citizens and law enforcement join forces we produce positive results.”
Iowa's AMBER Alert Plan
Iowa's AMBER Alert Plan became effective March 13, 2003 making Iowa the 36th state to adopt an AMBER Alert Plan.
Commissioner Kevin W. Techau, Iowa Department of Public Safety, along with members of the coordinating committee held a press conference in the Wallace Building Auditorium to explain the procedure that has been developed for Iowa and announce that the plan is now operational.
Tests of the system have been initiated and have been successful. Training sessions have been held to instruct Iowa's Law Enforcement Agencies on how to use the AMBER Alert Plan and the criteria that is to be followed.