In 1996, the America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert program was created and named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in Texas. Shortly after this incident, residents of her Arlington, Texas hometown requested that radio stations in that area broadcast special "alerts" when such incidents took place in the future. The AMBER Plan is now in place in many communities across the country and is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies and broadcasters. This plan is designed to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases. This is the same concept used during severe weather emergencies. The goal of the AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe return of the child. Statistics continue to prove that time is our greatest adversary when a child is abducted. According to a study by the United States Department of Justice, 74 percent of the children who were kidnapped and later found murdered were killed in the first three hours after being taken.
Creating the South Carolina AMBER Alert system is an effort to enhance law enforcement's ability to respond to child abductions, to quickly enlist assistance from communities, and to hopefully result in the quick and safe recovery of abducted children. The Alert mechanism is a cooperative effort between South Carolina law enforcement personnel and South Carolina broadcasters, and allows for the quick dissemination of an urgent bulletin in child abduction cases. Radio and television stations, under the South Carolina AMBER Alert system, will immediately interrupt their regular programming to broadcast information about a child’s abduction. The quick dissemination of this information is critical in the effort to save the lives of abducted children.
SC AMBER Alert Background
In 1993, at the request of then State Representative Lindsey Graham, the State of South Carolina, in cooperation with the law enforcement community and South Carolina Broadcasters, developed and initiated a statewide emergency broadcast/alert system ("Operation Child Alert") for missing/abducted children in South Carolina. The protocol for this system was developed by the South Carolina Sheriffs' Association, and was designed to be activated by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) upon request of the chiefs and sheriffs when a child was the victim of a kidnapping. In 2002, the South Carolina system was reviewed and substantially enhanced to include many of the criteria outlined in the AMBER Alert.
Abduction and Kidnapping Prevention Tips for Parents
Recent crimes against children, although a rare occurrence, have left many
parents frightened and unsure about how best to protect their children.
According to a study conducted by the Washington State Attorney General's
office for the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention, in 57 percent of the cases, the victims of child abduction murder are victims of opportunity.
The tips noted below will help parents lessen the opportunity for abduction and
kidnapping and better safeguard their children.
Teach your children to run away from danger, never towards it. Danger is
anyone or anything that invades their personal space. Teach them to yell
loudly. Their safety is more important than being polite. Teach your
children that if they are ever followed in a car to turn around and run in
the other direction to you or a trusted adult.
Never let your children go places alone, and always supervise your young
children or make sure there is a trusted adult present to supervise them if
you cannot. Make sure your older children always take a friend when they
Know where and with whom your children are at all times. Remind children
never to take anything or respond in any way if approached by someone
they don't know. Teach them to run away as quickly as they can to you or
a trusted adult.
Talk openly to your children about safety and encourage them to tell you
or a trusted adult if anyone or anything makes them feel frightened,
confused, or uncomfortable. Discuss security issues with your children so
that they will understand the need for precautions. Advise your older
children about steps they can take to help safeguard themselves. Know
your children's friends and their families. Pay attention to your children
and listen to them. If you don't, there's always someone else who will.
Practice what you teach by creating "what if" scenarios with your children
to make sure they understand the safety message and can use it in a real
Consider installing an alarm system in your home with a monitoring
feature. Make sure your home is secured with deadbolt locks, and ensure
that landscaping around it doesn't provide places for people to hide.
When to Request Activation of the South Carolina AMBER Alert
As soon as an abduction is reported and the investigation reveals all of the following:
The law enforcement agency believes that the child has been abducted: taken from their environment unlawfully, without authority of law, and without permission from the child's parent or legal guardian.
The child is 17 years old or younger, and the law enforcement agency believes the child is in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death; or if the individual is 18 years old or older, and the law enforcement agency believes the individual is at greater risk for immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death because the individual possesses a proven physical or mental disability.
All other possibilities for the victim's disappearance have been reasonably excluded.
There is sufficient information available to disseminate to the public that could assist in locating the victim, suspect, or vehicle used in the abduction.
The child's name and other critical data have been entered into NCIC.
IMPORTANT: If you respond NO to ANY of the above statements, it does not meet the U.S. Department of Justice recommended criteria for activation of the AMBER Alert.
How to Activate the South Carolina AMBER Alert:
When the chief, sheriff, or designee determines that the case meets all of the criteria for activation of the South Carolina AMBER Alert plan, call SLED Headquarters at (803) 896-7133.
Fax or email the completed South Carolina AMBER Alert Information Form (see forms) and a photograph of the victim(s) and suspect(s) to (803) 896-7595 .
Agencies' Responsibilities upon Activation of a SC AMBER Alert
The Chief of SLED or his designee will disseminate the South Carolina AMBER Alert Information Form by fax and e-mail to radio and television stations designated by the South Carolina Broadcasters Association, and the Associated Press Control Bureau for South Carolina, which will be asked to provide this information as well for their broadcast wires in North Carolina and Georgia, due to the overlap of broadcast coverage.
SLED will notify all South Carolina law enforcement agencies via BOLO, and will contact the South Carolina Department of Public Safety at (803) 896-4644, the South Carolina Department of Transportation at (803) 654-7437, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (803) 551-4200.
SLED will notify all Agents of the South Carolina AMBER Alert.
The South Carolina Department of Public Safety will notify State Troopers of the South Carolina AMBER Alert.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation will activate traffic advisory signs in various locations throughout the state with South Carolina AMBER Alert information for up to eight hours after the Alert is initiated.
Following this activation process, the public will be notified by the news media of the South Carolina AMBER Alert every 15 minutes for the next 3 hours.
After eight hours from the time the alert begins, any updates/cancellations (see attached update/cancellation forms) should be made directly to the South Carolina Clearinghouse at 1-800-322-4453.
In the event a citizen sees the child, abductor, and/or vehicle fitting the South Carolina AMBER Alert description, they should immediately call 911 with that information and the location. The agency receiving this information will then contact the initiating agency with this citizen-supplied information.
At the conclusion of an AMBER Alert, the Chief of SLED or his designee will fax and e-mail a formal close to the alert to all radio and television stations, the Associated Press Control Bureau for South Carolina, all South Carolina law enforcement agencies via BOLO, and will contact the South Carolina Department of Public Safety at (803) 896-4644, the South Carolina Department of Transportation at (803) 654-7437, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (803) 551-4200.
South Carolina AMBER Alert After-Action Review
Upon conclusion of a South Carolina AMBER Alert (within one week), the standing South Carolina AMBER Alert Review Committee as well as the initiating law enforcement agency shall review the operational efficiencies of the Alert to determine if any systematic changes are needed. The South Carolina AMBER Alert Review Committee members are listed below:
S. C. Sheriffs' Association
S. C. Police Chiefs' Association
S. C. Broadcasters Association
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children - S. C. Branch