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Amber Alert System Turns 10, One Year Older than Amber Got to Be

The early warning system to watch for abducted children was named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996.

A statewide emergency system designed to track down abducted children within hours of disappearing marked 10 years in service Monday.

The Amber Alert system, operated by the California Highway Patrol from its Sacramento headquarters — has reunited 235 children with their families since it first went into operation in California in July 2002, CHP Officer Art Montiel said.

The alert system distributes vital information about a child abduction case as quickly as possible to the news media, the public and law enforcement, Montiel said. The idea is to enlist millions of citizens who are out on the roads and highways in helping law enforcement search for kidnappers as soon as children have been confirmed as missing.

"That's why it works so well," Montiel said. "You have nowhere to hide unless you're already hiding."

Amber Alert operations are connected to the state's Emergency Alert System, which pre-empts radio and television broadcasts to provide immediate information to the public through the media. The CHP also works with Caltrans to activate signs along roadways throughout the state with information about a suspect's vehicle and descriptions of a suspect and an abducted child.

Of the 16 Amber Alert activations in California in 2011 — three of which were hoaxes — 18 victims were safely recovered, according to the CHP. Six of those abductions were committed by a parent, three by a family acquaintance, and two by a stranger, the CHP said.

Amber Alerts were named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996.

— Bay City News Service

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