|Facebook adds Amber Alert to site|
|Written by Shelley Singler, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Monday, 24 January 2011 20:16|
The Amber Alert system, which already reaches the public through radio, television and even highway signs, may now reach an even more widespread audience through Facebook.
The system started after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered in 1996 in Arlington, Texas. The Amber Alert system was then created to notify the public of missing children through the media in order to recover those lost or abducted children and save lives.
“[The] Amber Alert [system] is innovative in that it is intended to address the critical time immediately after abduction in the hopes of alerting people in the area before distance and time make the situation more challenging,” Jeffrey Walsh, associate professor of criminal justice, said.
Today, over 500 children have been found and saved because of Amber Alert.
Amber Alert was recently brought to Facebook in a joint effort between the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the U.S. Department of Justice and Facebook.
Currently all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands use the Amber Alert notification system, but using notifications through Facebook could increase those numbers that the Amber Alert reaches.
“After only a week online, the state-specific Amber Alert pages are already connected to thousands of people on Facebook, so it isn’t just one person sharing. In Illinois, for example, 6,500 people have already liked the page,” Brooke Oberwetter, associate manager of policy communications for Facebook, said.
On the Amber Alert Facebook page, Facebook users can sign up to have Amber Alert bulletins delivered directly to their news feeds when they are issued. Each of the bulletins posted to Facebook includes informationon how to report tips to local law enforcement to assist in locating and recovering the missing child.
“If just one person shares an Amber Alert, it pops up in the news feeds of their friends on Facebook and those people can then share it with all their connections,” Oberwetter said.
"A lot of people are on their computers, so if people could see the notifications as an announcement or news feed in Facebook, there could be some utility in that. More and more people are carrying smart phones with Facebook apps on them and this could be more immediate than radio or TV,” Walsh said.
Although some critics debate the effectiveness of the system, according to the DOJ, in some cases, not only is the Amber Alert system successful as a notification system to the public, but it also acts as a deterrent to some of the perpetrators.
According to DOJ, “Amber Alert cases have shown that some perpetrators release the abducted child after hearing the Amber Alert on the radio or seeing it on television.”
“[Amber Alert] is not successful 100 percent of the time, nothing is, but the collective of various tools and techniques all assisting one another increases the success rate of recovery,” Walsh said.