Today is AMBER Alert Awareness Day. Around the country, law enforcement officials are reminding people they can play a pivotal role in finding missing children. Here in New York, our Megan Cruz tells us the program has been a huge success.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- "That's the audible tone you would hear," said New York State AMBER Alert Program Coordinator Gary Kelly.
It's a simple sound that could save a child's life; the simple lesson police want people to remember on National AMBER Alert Awareness Day.
"Who doesn't want to help locate a child?" asked Kelly.
A call to action people have been answering since the program was created in 1996, named after a 9-year-old girl from Texas who was abducted then murdered.
"There's success stories all over the country all the time as a result of the program," said Kelly. "It is a very effective program, the public has embraced it, and that's what makes it work."
Kelly is a senior investigator with the State Police's Special Victim's Unit. He said since New York started participating in 2002, there's been 46 alerts for 55 kids, all of whom were found and returned home.
"We had a case in Elmira, January 2011 in which a 3-year-old boy was found hours later hundreds of miles away in Monroe County because two citizens simultaneously saw a highway sign with the the suspect's vehicle, a red dodge intrepid, saw the vehicle in front of them and called 911," he said.
Highways signs, also TV and radio broadcasts, but by and large, Kelly said text messages are the best, most widespread form of outreach.
"It's cell-tower driven, so if you happen to be in Florida on vacation with your family and there's an Amber Alert in Florida, you'll receive an alert on your phone," he said.
Alerts that not only help find kids who've been kidnapped; they have also deterred would-be abductors.
Kelly said, "We had a case out in the Buffalo region years ago in the Tonawanda area in which the suspect saw an alert, drove the child beck to the home, and pushed the child out of the car."
A system that may have its setbacks - "The only time they'd get an alert is if there is a known vehicle and plate. That may change as the program progresses," said Kelly.
For how you can receive AMBER alerts via text messages, Facebook, or Twitter, head to:
Amber Alert on Facebook
Amber Alert on Twitter
NYS Police of Facebook
NYS Police of Twitter