2004-10-14 / Other News

New State Law Expands AMBER Alert Notification

Governor George Pataki recently signed legislation into law that expands the AMBER Alert system - which notifies the public of missing or abducted children - to include the dissemination of AMBER Alerts via e-mail and text messaging.

The new law gives the New York State Police and Division of Criminal Justice Services authorization to disseminate AMBER Alert information to Internet Service Providers and mobile/ cellular service providers who agree to take part in the AMBER Alert system. This will result in New Yorkers receiving AMBER Alert notifications via their e-mail and electronic text messages on a personal computer, cell phone or personal digital assistant.

“When a child is missing, we need to be able to put out as much information as quickly as possible to police and the public in order to help return that child to safety,” Pataki said. “Using the latest communication technologies available, the State, in partnership with any commercial service provider, will be able to immediately provide vital information about missing children to reach as many New Yorkers as possible.”State Senator Marty Golden stated, “I am proud that the State of New York has advanced with the times and will now provide for an official notification of a missing child through e-mail and text messaging. The Amber Alert Plan has given us a strong groundwork on which to build as a society to see that our children remain out of harms way. We have expanded its abilities and New York’s children will be safer because of this new law.”

Under current law, when a child is reported missing, local law enforcement agencies can request an AMBER Alert through the New York State Police if the missing child is under 18 years of age and there is reason to believe the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death, there is a proven medical or physical condition that puts the child at-risk.

The AMBER Alert is then broadcast through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and a 24-hour electronic messaging system to television and radio stations, which briefly interrupts regular programming to notify the public of an at-risk missing child.

Activation of the EAS and use of the TV and radio electronic messaging system sends an alert tone, followed by a voice or text message that is repeated every 20 minutes during the first hour, every 30 minutes during the second hour and then once an hour for the next six hours.

Under the bill signed by the Governor, Internet users are able to subscribe to a special e-mail notification service through the Division of Criminal Justice Services or the New York State Police websites beginning later this year. In addition, DCJS and the New York State Police have been coordinating with Internet and mobile service providers to directly distribute this information to their subscribers using e-mail and text messages.

Since New York’s AMBER Alert program was rolled out in September 2002, Governor Pataki has enhanced the program to include notifications to the Thruway Authority, bus stations, and airports through the Transportation Security Administration. This expansion will further enhance notifications, enabling this vital information to be immediately disseminated to the public.

To date, there have been eight AMBER Alert notifications in New York State. Two alerts were issued in support of the New Jersey State Police, one was issued by the Syracuse Police Department, one was issued by Mamaroneck Police in Westchester County, and four were issued by the New York City Police Department.

To receive AMBER alerts via email and for more information on AMBER Alert or missing children, or to obtain child safety publications for parents, law enforcement agencies and schools, please visit the Division of Criminal Justice Services’ Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse web site at www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us, or the New York State Police AMBER Alert website at www.nysamber.-troopers.state.ny.us.

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