Amber Alerts: An advancing tool

By Erika Mahoney

August 15, 2013 Updated Aug 15, 2013 at 6:07 AM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) It's been less than a week since two children made national headlines after they were rescued following separate Amber Alerts.

They are among the more than 700 children that have been rescued alive with the help of the program enacted in 1996, according to Amber Alert founder Pastor Charles Williams.

The rescues take teamwork, and start with the alert activation.

At the New York State Department of Transportation Region 9, employees are trained to be ready at any moment to issue an Amber Alert.

While authorities were focusing their efforts across the country, closer to home, local officials were working an Amber Alert of their own.

Over the past few weeks, the staff monitored the two alerts that made national headlines.

"We were keeping track of what was happening out West and in New England," said DOT Public Information Officer Dave Hamburg. "Should we have been notified that we need to take action, we would have taken immediate action."

In both cases, the children were found.

Hannah Anderson, 16, was rescued after horseback riders spotted her in the woods of Idaho, and the FBI eventually moved in.

During the rescue, police fatally shot the man they said killed Hannah's mother and brother and then kidnapped her.

On the heels of that rescue, an Amber Alert was activated for 2-year-old Isaiah Perez during a double homicide investigation in Rhode Island.

Police say his kidnapper is the man responsible for the two killings.

The baby boy was found within 24 hours of his Amber Alert.

"It's nice to hear," Hamburg said. "It's really a very warming thing to learn that there has been a successful conclusion to what could be a very bad situation. As it relates to the Department of Transportation, we have our forces out on the road that are on the lookout when we learn of these things."

On Aug. 11, Hamburg and his team were players in a case that originated out of Region 9.

"In Sullivan County, we were alerted to an adult, a vulnerable adult, who was missing," he said. "We were able to put the alert out on the message signs and that person was found safely."

Hamburg said this region sees an average of two Amber Alerts per year.

For the seven continues DOT Region 9 covers, there are 25 message signs.

In Broome County, there are 15 signs, 11 of which are permanent, and four of which are portable.

"When we activate the Amber Alert system, people that get notified include law enforcement across the state, broadcasters, TV, radio, print, trains, buses, subways, hospitals, 20,000-plus taxi cabs when we activate the New York City region," said New York State Police Senior Investigator Gary Kelly.

By then end of 2013, Kelly said most cell phones will also receive alerts.

Officials say it's a tool that is constantly growing -- by necessity -- to ensure the success stories do as well.

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