17 years ago, Amber Hartman, a 9 year old from Arlington, Texas was abducted and later found murdered. To help other parents hopefully avoid tragic endings like this one, the Amber Alert was formed.
The last Amber Alert we saw here in Illinois was this past Thursday. The 18 month old Bensenville girl is now one of more than 600 children safely recovered thanks to fast acting police and the Amber Alert.
Illinois State Police District 17 Trooper Brent Massingill says, "Even as a police officer, we probably don't know the person, but it's stressful, somebody's missing. But when it's a child, you know especially if you're a parent, that just takes it to a whole new level."
When a missing child call comes in, Massingill knows just how to react. "We basically send that info to Springfield and Springfield will disseminate that via the National Weather Service radio system. We will put that out, broadcast that out over our Illinois State Police emergency radio network."
The alert also goes to all local and state officers' laptops. The computers use an instant message system to send information to just one officer, or an entire district. "It sounds like a lot but with technology these days a lot of times you can do that with just the press of a button," says Massingill.
The message also makes its way to IDOT. The department then displays it on the many electronic billboards over highways and interstates. This greatly increases the number of eyes on the lookout for the missing child.
Massingill says, "there's only so many officers out on the roads at any given moment, but if you see a suspect vehicle, we don't want you to try and stop them or anything but you can call 9-1-1, let us know where they're at and that's a wonderful help for us."
All 50 states and around 10 other countries use the Amber Alert system.
If you have small children at home, Massingill says have an emergency identification kit ready with their information. Include photos, fingerprints, height weight and age, and even DNA samples. In the event that your little one ever goes missing, you can hand that information over to police and let them do the rest.