Dover -- Gov. Ruth Ann Minner announced that Delaware has joined 33 other states in implementing the AMBER Alert system, which publicly broadcasts information about child abductions over local radio stations.
"Statistics show that nearly 75 percent of children killed by non-family members are murdered within the first three hours of their abduction," Gov. Minner said. "That means we must act quickly. This system helps us do that."
The AMBER plan was created in 1996 after the brutal murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas. Residents of that community contacted radio stations in the Dallas area asking that they broadcast special alerts in case of future abductions. The system then caught on nationally.
Delaware's program got its start when Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South, got a call from a constituent who had heard about AMBER Alert on an out-of-state trip. He asked whether the plan could be brought to Delaware and Rep. Keeley started talking with broadcasters and state police chiefs to make the program happen.
"This just shows that Delawareans shouldn't hesitate to contact their legislators when they have an idea," Rep. Keeley said. "That way, their suggestions can benefit their neighbors and fellow residents of Delaware."
Earlier this year, Gov. Minner found the funding necessary to implement AMBER Alert in her own budget line. It was also funded in part by the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA).
AMBER Alert requires collaboration between law enforcement agencies and radio and television media. In Delaware, local law enforcement agencies would contact state police in case of child abduction. The State Police would then decide if the abduction met the criteria to activate an AMBER alert. Those criteria are:
* Confirmation by law enforcement that a child under age 17 has been abducted;
* Belief by law enforcement that the circumstances surrounding the abduction indicate the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death; and,
* Enough descriptive information about the child, abductor and/or suspect's vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert will help.
"I appreciate the governor coming up with this funding," said Newport Police Chief Michael Capriglione, president of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council. "I think this is a big step we've taken for our kids." -- Jim McKay, justice editor