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AMBER Alerts hit wireless networks

Cell phone users can opt to receive AMBER Alerts in the form of text messages, according to the California Highway Patrol, which has joined with the cell phone industry to provide the service.

The service is free and available to nearly all cell phone users in California, and the instructions are also available online in Spanish for the first time, according to the CHP.

The AMBER Alert system began in Texas in 1996 when news broadcasters teamed with police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.



AMBER stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was created as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and murdered.

The California AMBER Alert network was created eight years ago and aids law enforcement with streamlined notification of public safety agencies – messages that interrupt broadcasts and roadside signs posted by major highways, according to the CHP.




The program is credited with the safe recovery of 148 California children, the CHP reports.

“Sending AMBER Alerts to people’s cell phones is another valuable tool in law enforcement’s arsenal to save abducted children,” said Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Commander Rick Adams.

“This will add thousands of eyes to look for victims and suspects in AMBER Alert cases during those first critical hours of an abduction,” said CHP Deputy Commissioner Skip Carter.

More than 30 wireless carriers, which serve 96 percent of all U.S. subscribers, offer the wireless AMBER Alerts program, according to the CHP.

Most wireless subscribers can enroll by sending the word “AMBER” followed by a space and their 5-digit zip code in a text message to 26237.

Cell phone users can also register on-line at http://www.wirelessamberalerts.org.

“We believe this is a compelling way to raise awareness about a vitally important child safety tool,” said David Diggs, executive director of The Wireless Foundation, a non-profit organization formed by members of the cellular telephone industry. “We hope everyone signs up for this free service and helps play a crucial role in the safe recovery of an abducted child.”

To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail rmoormeister@theunion.com or call 477-4236.


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