Activating AMBER Alert Awareness

By Erika Mahoney

January 13, 2013 Updated Jan 14, 2013 at 9:58 AM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) When a person goes missing and an AMBER Alert is issued, police say time is of the essence.

"We don't take a lot of time," New York State Police Lt. Robert Croswell said. "Time is our enemy with this."

State police make the call and quickly notify the state's head department of transportation.

DOT officials then determine where the information needs to be created and transmitted, calling specific regional DOT offices.

"Everyone is in this together," New York State DOT Public Information Officer David Hamburg said. "And not only are we talking about the department of transportation and the state police, but there's also the partnership that we have with the media. The media is also alerted to the circumstance as well through the Emergency Activation System."

AMBER, or America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response, was created after the abduction and murder of Amber Hagerman in 1996. She was just 9 years old, captured while riding her bike in Arlington, Texas.

The AMBER Alert creator, a pastor and father of four himself, was heart broken by the news. He asked: Why not create a broadcast alert similar to storm warnings?

"As soon as you send out a broadcast alert about a missing child, I mean everyone in a car, or everyone listening to the radio is going to look around for that one particular child," AMBER Alert Founder Pastor Charles Williams said. "And that's how it all got started."

It takes a network of teams to get the signs and messages out. Then, it's up to the public and police to respond.

"If you are driving along and you see a sign with an AMBER Alert on it and you spot that vehicle, spot that person, real simple, call 9-1-1," Croswell said.

There are 15 message boards in Broome County.

The alerts are not a joke. Croswell said the criteria to publish them are so restrictive it means there is a very credible risk of harm.

Since last October, Croswell said the New Vulnerable Adult Alert has been requested 44 times. That alert was approved 22 times. Croswell said eight recoveries were directly associated to it.

'If they are not paying attention, then they've missed an opportunity to help save someone's life," Croswell said.

A life could be on the line. Time and teamwork are vital.

Police say if you know someone who has gone missing, the sooner the authorities are notified, the better.

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