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What's the difference between an AMBER Alert & a missing child?

Criteria established for law enforcement to request AMBER Alert

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SAN ANTONIO – When a child disappears, it is often a frantic time for parents desperate to be reunited with him or her. The question commonly asked: Why hasn't an AMBER Alert been issued?

The simple answer: not every case meets the criteria.

In Texas, the following are required:

  •  
    1. Is this child 17 years of age or younger, whose whereabouts are unknown, and whose disappearance law enforcement has determined to be unwilling which poses a credible threat to the child's safety and health; and (i) if abducted by a parent or legal guardian, was the abduction in the course of an attempted murder or murder? OR
    2. Is this child 13 years of age or younger, who was taken (willingly or unwillingly) without permission from the care and custody of a parent or legal guardian by:
      1. someone unrelated and more than three years older,
        or
      2. another parent or legal guardian who attempted or committed murder at the time of the abduction?
  • Is this child in immediate danger of sexual assault, death or serious bodily injury?
  • Has a preliminary investigation verified the abduction and eliminated alternative explanations for the child's disappearance?
  • Is sufficient information available to disseminate to the public to help locate the child, a suspect, or the vehicle used in the abduction?
  • If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then law enforcement can issue the AMBER Alert. Those alerts are sent to the news media and cell phones of those who choose to receive the alerts. They will also appear on digital signs on highways.

    If the answer to all of those questions is no, law enforcement will continue efforts to search for the child. They may also ask the media to broadcast/publish information that might lead to information on the child's whereabouts.

    Background information on AMBER Alerts

    AMBER is an acronym. It stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. It is also a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman. In 1996, she was kidnapped in Arlington, Texas, and murdered. The case is still unsolved. The program started in Dallas-Fort Worth when broadcasters worked with police to create a warning system to find abducted children.

    Click here to see active alerts in Texas.

    Click here to see AMBER Alert cases from around the country.