Behind the scenes look at how AMBER Alert system works

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DENVER -- When a child goes missing, experts say the first three hours are critical. That is why getting word out to the public quickly is essential. The program in place to do that is the AMBER Alert System.

Saturday is National AMBER Alert Awareness Day. CBI runs the AMBER Alert system in Colorado and invited our Deborah Takahara in for a behind the scene look at how the system works.

Audrey Simkins is one of three CBI analysts that handle AMBER Alert activations. “Time is of the essence, we do want to get these out there as quickly as we can, but we do know with these types of investigations, things are constantly changing. You always have a sense of urgency that we need to get this out quickly, time is of the essence, we need to put out accurate information, we are all a little anxious to we get the call they have been safe.”

It can take up to an hour to get the AMBER alert activated.

Behind the scenes, analysts verify the information, have conversations with the law enforcement agency requesting the activation, gathering and entering data about the victim, suspect and vehicle. Simkins said, “These situations are so fluid, and every single one we issue is a different set of circumstances. We go through the chain of command to make sure we are really consistent with how we are applying the criteria.”

Colorado has strict requirements for issuing and AMBER Alert. They are:

  • The abducted child must be 17 years of age or younger
  • The abducted child must be in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death
  • There must be enough descriptive information available to believe a broadcast will assist or aid in the recovery
  • The activation must be requested by a local law enforcement agency or AMBER designee from another state

Simkins said they are careful not to overuse the system, “If we start issue several a day, maybe we are not as aware of the circumstances or severity we are looking at.” Since 2002, CBI has issued 86 AMBER Alerts. All but one of the children have been recovered, although three were deceased.

Nationwide, 910 children have been located through the AMBER Alert system.

Simkins said, “That`s our hope at the end of this, we bring all those kids home. It`s good to have all those working relationships and it`s satisfying to see them come home and they are safe and well and we are able to find them.”

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