- Dallas-Fort Worth area broadcasters established the AMBER alert program in 1997
- The broadcasters teamed with local police to develop a system to help find abducted children using stations' Emergency Alert System (EAS) equipment
- The AMBER program is a legacy to nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, and then brutally murdered in 1996
Local AMBER Child Abduction Alert Plans
- Local AMBER plans often include authentication procedures crucial to the security of the EAS
- Consequently, public versions of local AMBER plans do not include all components created and agreed to by broadcasters and law enforcement
Public versions of local AMBER plans in Texas:
State of Texas AMBER Child Abduction Alert Plan
- Gov. Rick Perry announced the state plan on Aug. 12, 2002
- Goal: attempt to bring AMBER alerts to areas of Texas that not covered by a local AMBER plan
- The Texas DPS is responsible for disseminating the alerts
- Alerts also are posted on electronic highway signs and distributed through BeyondMissing.com
More information is available at the following sites:
AMBER Alert History
The AMBER plan was started in July 1997 by a group of Dallas-Fort Worth radio broadcasters after the kidnapping of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman.
The AMBER Alert program has since been credited with the safe recovery of more than 300 children. To date there is a network of more than 115 AMBER Plans across the country.
AMBER plan created
In 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was riding her bike in a suburban neighborhood when she was abducted and murdered. Listeners of a KDMX Dallas-Fort Worth radio talk show wrote letters asking if there was anything broadcasters could do to alert the public to kidnappings.
A group of broadcasters put aside their intense competition in the Dallas-Fort Worth market and came up with the idea of using stations' EAS equipment to alert the public to kidnapping of children. They named the program America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response or AMBER as a legacy to the young girl.
The group, all members of the Association of Radio Managers, included:
- Jerry Bobo, KRLD-AM Dallas-Fort Worth
- Michael Spears, KRLD-AM Dallas-Fort Worth
- Tyler Cox, WBAP Dallas-Fort Worth
- Dan Bennett, KLIF Dallas-Fort Worth
- Jennifer Grim, KDMX Dallas-Fort Worth
- J.D. Freeman, KDMX Dallas-Fort Worth
- Scott Savage, KEWS Dallas-Fort Worth
They were disgusted that after all the expense and work broadcasters invested in 1996 in the new digital Emergency Alert System, local and state officials paid no attention to the tremendous communication tool radio and television stations offered to provide.
The broadcasters then teamed with local police agencies throughout the market to develop the early warning system to help find abducted children.
They invited Dee Anderson from the Arlington Police Department to hear their plan. Anderson now is Tarrant County sheriff and continues to be active in promoting AMBER.
The Primary EAS stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, WBAP and KRLD, agreed to immediately air messages about abducted children in situations that meet certain criteria. The broadcasters worked with police to develop criteria and guidelines that became the template for other cities in Texas and then other states to develop their own AMBER plans.
The criteria were designed to eliminate family custody disputes and speed up dissemination of information about kidnappings within the critical first three hours to an area where public participation has the most chance of locating a missing child.
The program was an immediate success. Other radio stations in the market agreed to immediately rebroadcast AMBER alerts or to broadcast the information to their audiences as quickly as possible. Soon television stations agreed to air the alerts, too.
The golden-haired child
In November 1998 the first AMBER alert to lead to prosecution occurred in Arlington.
Rae-Leigh Bradbury was returned to her parents in Arlington, as a direct result of the AMBER alert broadcast by KRLD radio.
Former KRLD General Manager Jerry Bobo still gets emotional when he sees the golden-haired girl who was only two months old when she was abducted by a drug addict. Police recovered the child less than half an hour after a KRLD listener heard the AMBER alert and spotted the kidnapper driving right in front of him.
Rae-Leigh is eight-years-old now and attending elementary school in Fort Worth.
State AMBER Plan
In August 2002 Gov. Rick Perry established, by executive order, a State AMBER Plan and directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to take responsibility for investigating child abductions and issuing alerts to areas of the state that do not have local AMBER plans in place.
Two days later Abilene police issued the first state-wide alert. The alert led to the rescue of one-month-old Nancy Crystal Chavez after she was kidnapped from her mother’s car in a parking lot.
In 2000 Joann Donnellan joined the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to lead an effort to take the AMBER plan nationwide. She was working at the "America's Most Wanted" television show when the Dallas-Fort Worth AMBER plan began drawing favorable publicity across the country.
She held her first forum with Dee Anderson and Tyler Cox from Dallas and representatives of five other plans then existing in August 2000.
In October 2001, when NCMEC kicked off a program to launch AMBER nationwide, 16 kidnapped kids had been recovered by 20 AMBER plans.
National AMBER plan
In 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law a proposal by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, to create a national AMBER plan framework to help the 92 AMBER Alert programs existing then and to ensure a seamless network to protect children in those areas without local AMBER plans.
Bobo, Cox and Steve Mace joined President Bush as he signed the bill into law as a special ceremony in the Whitehouse Rose Garden.
Teams made up of law enforcement, broadcasters and highway safety personnel from all 50 states now gather annually in Dallas for the National Training Conference on AMBER Alert to discuss the national strategy and examine state and local strategies for strengthening the AMBER Alert system across the country.
Now the Department of Justice organizes conferences across the country to train law enforcement primarily. Some broadcasters are included in the sessions and special courses aimed at broadcasters have been created in South Carolina.