Missouri to expand Amber Alert system

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Missouri will join an Amber Alert system using the Internet to spread information more quickly about missing children, and allowing residents to get electronic notices about searches, Gov. Matt Blunt said Friday.

Amber Alerts, which are issued when children are believed to have been abducted, are already in use in Missouri. Most people hear them on the radio, television or by reading them on electronic highway signs.

The alerts usually include a description or picture of the child and information about the suspect or vehicle.

Missouri is joining other states already using the Web-based Amber Alert system. It can relay the alerts widely and can quickly update the information. Individuals and businesses can sign up on a Web portal to be notified of alerts by e-mail, pager or cell phone.

Missouri joins Nevada, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Louisiana and Oklahoma in the second wave of states to join the coalition. Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Arizona already have been members.

"It really allows people to have real-time information about a missing child, so they can be part of finding that child and getting them restored to their community and to their family," Blunt said at a news conference at the Missouri Highway Patrol Troop's St. Louis County headquarters.

"The more eyes and ears that we have on the lookout for abducted children, the better."

Cape Girardeau police Lt. Buddy Davis, who handles Amber Alerts for the department, said adding the alerts to the Internet will be of great assistance in enhancing the profile of cases of missing children.

"I think it's a great idea. The key to the success of the system is getting as many people involved in looking for missing children and other missing people as possible. This is simply going to enhance the success of the program."

Capt. Ruth Ann Dickerson with the Cape Girardeau Sheriff's Department said that anything that can assist the department is getting information out faster is a welcome improvement.

Another improvement, said Dickerson, is that now people can print out the information and have a copy for reference instead of just hearing it on a broadcast news report.

Lt. Tim Hull, spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said one important feature of the new system is timely updates. Updated information on the Web site can be disseminated more quickly than with the old system.

Hull said those updates will also assist the media in having the most timely information, an important aspect to missing child cases.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va., said the murder of an abducted child is rare. However, it said 74 percent of abducted children who are murdered are dead within three hours of the kidnapping, citing a study by the Washington state's attorney general.

Staff writer Matt Sanders contributed to this report.

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