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What is an AMBER alert?

Most people are familiar at least to some degree with AMBER alerts, but it's important to understand that these are used only if a strict set of criteria are met. The first of these is that the child in question must be a minor. The child must also be believed to be in immediate physical danger, and there has to be enough information about the abduction situation to issue an informative alert to the community. A local law enforcement agency or specific AMBER designee must also have requested the alert be issued.

Once an AMBER alert is issued, the information is usually displayed on the local and state law enforcement agencies website. News media outlets may also distribute the alert and accompanying information, and there may also be text message alerts sent out to the community as well. Specifically in the state of Colorado, AMBER alerts are also displayed on the Variable Message Signs on the state's highways.

AMBER alerts are not issued in cases of children believed to have run away from home or even just wandered off. The authorities need to have specific evidence that points to an abduction, such as but not limited to eye-witness accounts or video footage from security cameras.

One of the most common situations where an AMBER alert may be issued is for a parental abduction. When a noncustodial parent does not return the child after a scheduled visit or takes the child without legal authorization, an AMBER alert can assist in helping the authorities locate the child and the abductor as quickly as possible. In instances where the abduction violated a court order, following up with a family law attorney and further legal action may be necessary.

Source: Colorado Bureau of Investigation Department of Public Safety, "AMBER Alert," accessed Dec. 09, 2015

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