Amber Alert Program
When a child abduction situation meets the established criteria, an Amber Alert is issued to solicit the public’s help for the safe and prompt return of the child.
The program uses:
- highway message boards,
- radio and television announcements, and
- text messages
to immediately broadcast descriptions of the abducted victims, their abductors, and suspect vehicles.
With thousands of eyes now watching, it is hoped that this early warning system will not only coerce a kidnapper into releasing the child for fear of being arrested but also deter the person from committing the crime in the first place. Stranger abductions are rare in British Columbia.
Amber Alert is a province-wide, innovative partnership that involves:
- law enforcement agencies in BC
- BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
- BC Association of Broadcasters,
- Canada’s wireless telecommunications industry,
- Child Find BC, and
- an ever expanding list of external partners.
When is an Amber Alert activated?
Amber Alert is intended only for the most serious, time-critical child abduction cases. It is not intended for cases involving parental abductions, except in life-threatening situations. Amber Alert can be used in any abduction that meets the criteria regardless of what relation the abductor has with the victim.
Amber Alert is only activated by authorized users within law enforcement agencies. All of following conditions must be met before activating an Amber Alert:
- The victim is under the age of 18
- Police have reasonable grounds to believe that the victim has been abducted
- Police have reasonable grounds to believe the victim is in imminent danger
- Police have obtained enough descriptive information about the victim, abductor and/or the vehicle involved
- Police believe that the alert can be issued in a time frame that will provide a reasonable expectation that the child can be returned or the abductor apprehended
How does it work?
The RCMP follow an established protocol to activate the alert, using a specially designed web application that notifies participating partners to immediately:
- display Amber Alert information on electronic highway signs to the travelling public,
- interrupt radio and television programming to broadcast Amber Alert information as a public service, without commercial endorsement,
- disseminate Amber Alert information to their field personnel, colleagues or via their web sites.
The duration of an alert will depend on the circumstances surrounding the abduction and will vary from one incident to the next.
Wireless Amber Alerts
Wireless Amber Alerts will be now distributed to compatible wireless devices via cell broadcast.
Alerts will be distributed to devices, like a smartphone, that uses the LTE network for high-speed wireless communication (LTE is commonly referred to as
To receive wireless Amber alerts, mobile devices must be connected to a cellular network and be Wireless Public Alerting (WPA) compatible. Alerts will be broadcast automatically, and at no cost to the user. Wireless compatibility information is available at https://www.alertready.ca/.
How can the community assist?
The early stage of the investigation into an abducted child is critical. Every minute counts. The cooperation of the media and the public is crucial to the police. The determination of police investigators alone is not enough to guarantee the safe recovery of a child. Help from the community is essential. Information obtained quickly through an Amber Alert can assist in the safe and swift return of abducted children.
Amber Alert sends a strong message that crimes against children are intolerable, and in some cases has acted as a deterrent to potential abductors.
Amber Alert empowers the community to work cooperatively with law enforcement and the media to increase the safety of our communities. The main objective is always the safe return of the child.
This is what you can do to help:
- If you see or hear an Amber Alert displayed on electronic highway signs, radio, television or your wireless devices, watch for the child, suspect, and/or vehicle described in the Alert.
- Do not attempt to stop the vehicle or apprehend the child/offender yourself.
- Immediately report any sightings to the police by calling 9-1-1 and provide the location, and a description of the victim, suspect, and/or any vehicle involved.
- Do not forward Amber Alerts via text message without first referring to your local radio or television, or check bc.rcmp.ca to confirm the validity and current status of the Amber Alert in your area.
Amber Alert background
In 1996, the brutal kidnapping and murder of 9 year old Amber Hagerman, caused her community of Arlington Texas to come together and create the AMBER (America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response) program with the intent of preventing such incidents from occurring in the future and to increase the safety of children in the community.
Amber Alert first came to British Columbia on National Missing Children’s Day, May 25th 2004, and has proven itself as a successful program and law enforcement tool over the years.
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