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Friday, July 19, 2013

Technology Leads to Safe Recovery of AMBER Alert Victim

*** Child has since been located and is safe ***
When a child is abducted, law enforcement officers often rush to alert as many people as they can since the grim reality is that the odds of finding a child worsen with each passing moment.

In the case of the state-wide AMBER Alert on Wednesday, the events started unfolding after the authorities said that Marina Lopez, 25, of Queens, had abducted her son, Mario Danner Jr., on Tuesday afternoon.

Baby Mario had been placed in foster care within the last three months. Ms. Lopez was reported to be bipolar and had shown recent outbreaks of violence, the authorities said.

The New York Police Department asked the State Police on Tuesday night to issue an AMBER Alert, which was initially broadcast on television, radio and the Internet. It was also transmitted to cellphone users in New York City and surrounding counties in the early hours on Wednesday after investigators discovered that the child might be riding in a car with.

The AMBER Alert was transmitted via a national cellular network, known as the Wireless Emergency Alerts system, which was mandated by Congress in 2006 as a way to supplement radio and television broadcasts. It was built through a partnership of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission and the wireless industry. FEMA, which administers the network, has authorized designated federal, state and local agencies, including the New York State Police, to use it. After receiving an alert from an agency, FEMA transmits it to cellular carriers, which then relay it to cellphone users.

It was a watershed moment in the intersection of law enforcement and technology: the first mass AMBER Alert sent to cellphones in the city since a national wireless emergency alert system was established. And, the police later said, it directly led to the child’s being located. 

Once the alert was initiated, countless bleary-eyed New Yorkers were jolted upright just before 4 a.m. on Wednesday when their cellphones suddenly started blaring with a message about a 7-month-old boy who had been abducted hours earlier by his mother, who had a history of mental illness, from a foster care agency in Harlem.

By Wednesday afternoon, thanks to the new alert system, the police said that they had found Ms. Lopez and her son in “good condition.” Ms. Lopez was arrested and charged with custodial interference. The police said she was found after the Amber Alert led to a tip to the department’s Crime Stoppers hot line.

AMBER Alerts were first issued in the 1990s in the Dallas-Fort Worth area after a local girl was abducted and murdered. The alerts, which initially were broadcast on TV and radio, later spread to road signs and social media sites. In 2005, the alerts were transmitted to cellphone users who opted to receive the messages through their carriers. By 2012, there were about 700,000 cellphone numbers receiving the alerts.

The Wireless Emergency Alerts system, however, can reach millions of people. More than 50 alerts for abducted children have been carried on cellphones around the country since December 2012.

AMBER Alerts save lives.
Since they began, 656 children have been found with AMBER Alerts.

Source: The New York Times
Editing & Writing Contributions by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International

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