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Empirical Examination of AMBER Alert Successes

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 38 Issue: 5 Dated: September/October 2010 Pages: 1053-1062
Timothy Griffin
Date Published
September 2010
10 pages
This article examines the AMBER Alert system.
The AMBER Alert system was designed to recover endangered missing children through the solicitation of citizen assistance via swift public announcements. Rigorous empirical support for AMBER Alert's effectiveness has been lacking, but since its inception program advocates and public safety officials have lauded the system's ability to "save lives," often basing their optimism on AMBER Alert "success" stories. However, in this paper quantitative and qualitative analyses of 333 publicized and celebrated AMBER Alert "successes" suggest AMBER Alerts rarely result in the retrieval of abducted children from clearly "life-threatening" situations, and that most of the publicized successes involved relatively benign abductors and unthreatening circumstances. The routine conflation of such apparently mundane cases with rare dramatic successes by AMBER Alert advocates suggests popular portrayals of AMBER Alert are overly sanguine. The potentially negative effects of this and policy implications are discussed. Tables, notes, and references (Published Abstract)