President Bush To Sign AMBER Into Law

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Wednesday, 30 April 2003

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Reports 64 Children Recovered Thanks to Pioneering Program - PROTECT Act of 2003 Imposes Tougher Penalties for Child Sex Offenses

In a White House Rose Garden ceremony today President George Bush plans to sign the PROTECT Act of 2003 - a bill the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) hails as 'the most far- reaching legislation to date to protect America's children," according to NCMEC President and CEO Ernie Allen. "We praise President Bush for making the safety and well-being of our children a federal priority."

This comprehensive child protection package known to most Americans as the "AMBER" bill creates a national network of AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Plans across the U.S. It designates an AMBER Alert coordinator at the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ)so programs are consistent and activated in a meaningful way. It also provides 30 million dollars in resources from DoJ and the Department of Transportation to expand, enhance and link the 91 local, regional, and statewide programs that currently exist. The funding will also create AMBER training programs for law enforcement and broadcasters and help improve the Emergency Alert System which is used to activate the Alerts similar to the process for severe weather emergencies.

"The signing of this bill will ensure that AMBER Plans become a fundamental tool for law enforcement in every community, in every state, when a child is abducted. It's a vital step to enhance a proven resource," said Allen.

The bill also provides many other important tools to prevent, investigate, and prosecute violent crimes against children. "It's a broad-based bill that provides greater supervision for sex offenders; enhances penalties for those who murder children; sets mandatory life sentences for twice-convicted sex offenders; and it targets virtual child pornographers," said Allen.

"The PROTECT Act is a major victory for our children because a majority of sex offenses in the U.S. are committed against children, so we need to do everything we can to protect them from these predators. This bill is a huge first step in the right direction," said Allen.

In 2001 NCMEC joined with many national law enforcement and broadcaster organizations in an effort to establish the AMBER Plan throughout the nation. When this aggressive campaign was launched, only 5 statewide and 27 local and regional AMBER Plans existed in the United States, having recovered 16 children. Today, NCMEC is proud to report that there are now 41 statewide and 50 local and regional AMBER Plans across the county, and many more in development. And, most importantly, this innovative program has been credited with saving the lives of 64 children.

The AMBER Plan is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies and broadcasters to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. It was created in 1996 as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then brutally murdered. In response to this heinous crime, Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children.

NCMEC, a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, works in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. NCMEC was established in 1984 as a public-private partnership to help find missing children and combat child sexual exploitation. It has assisted local law-enforcement agencies on more than 89,000 missing child cases, helping to reunite more than 73,000 children with their families. Today, the organization reports a 94 percent recovery rate. For more information about NCMEC, call 1-800-THE-LOST

For more information, or to contact National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, see their website at: www.missingkids.org

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