Today (Thursday) marks the ninth anniversary of the abduction and murder of a nine-year-old Texas girl named Amber Hagerman — the girl for whom the Amber Alert is named. Jim Saunders, spokesman for Iowa’s Department of Public Safety, says Iowa’s been a part of the emergency alert system in kidnapping cases for almost two years and so far, has a perfect record. Since Iowa joined the Amber Alert program in March of 2003, five alerts have been issued and all five children were recovered alive. Saunders says “we’re very forunate and it’s proven to be very helpful.” He says before an Amber Alert is issued, four specific criteria have to be met: law enforcement confirms a child has been abducted, the child is under 18, law enforcement believes the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death, and there is enough descriptive information about the child, abductor, and/or the suspect’s vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert will help. Saunders says the reason for the criteria is to assure that when an Amber Alert is issued, people take notice and respond accordingly. He says if the alerts were issued in a wider array of cases, the public might not listen to them anymore. Saunders says it’s hoped the warning system will not only coerce a kidnapper into releasing the child for fear of being arrested but would also deter the person from committing the crime in the first place. With Iowa being five-for-five in its Amber Alerts so far, Saunders says it’s clear — the system works. He says “It’s a fantastic tool that allows law enforcement to get information out by entering this partnership with broadcasters, the news media and the National Weather Service, we can get that information out almost instantaneously to a lot of people in Iowa.” For more information, surf to “www.iowaamberalert.org”.
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