How Media's AMBER Alerts Woke Up America
By Ernie Allen -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/27/2004 8:00:00 PM
For more than 20 years, I have been involved with the missing-children movement. Unequivocally, local broadcasters have been one of our strongest partners in helping us find missing children and protect them from exploitation.
In fact, our statistics show that one out of six of the children featured in our photo-distribution network are recovered as a direct result of that picture. And the No. 1 source of photo-related recoveries is television.
Stations like WABC New York air a missing-child photo in every single newscast. They also produce stories and specials that educate families on safety tips and our prevention campaigns.
This year, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) marks its 20th anniversary. On June 13, 1984, President Ronald Reagan officially opened NCMEC in a White House ceremony with a poem by Helen Kromer:
One man awake can awaken another.
The second can awaken his next-door brother.
The three awake can rouse the town, turning the whole place upside down.
And the many awake make such a fuss, they finally awaken the rest of us.
Reagan called on the newly created NCMEC to "wake up America and attack the crisis of child victimization."
Local radio and television stations' dedication to the AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert program helps us fulfill that challenge every time they activate the system for an abducted child. Broadcasters' efforts mobilize the eyes and ears of the public to search.
To date, this voluntary commitment has helped save the lives of more than 130 children.
Two decades ago, if a child disappeared, families were largely on their own. It was easier to find a stolen car than a stolen child. That was at a time when federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies didn't always communicate with each other or with the media.
But that has all changed. Today, we see the 18,000 law-enforcement agencies around the country teaming up with their local broadcasters to fight the abductions of children.
With the help of local broadcasters, more missing children come home safely than at any time in the nation's history, and families are more alert and aware than ever before. Every day, we are inundated with calls from producers and reporters who are interested in educating their viewers and listeners about our issue.
We believe there is no greater community service than saving the lives of children and teaching families how to keep them safe. Broadcasters' efforts in this arena are praiseworthy, and we are grateful for their support.
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