The AMBER Alert website has closed amid the US government shutdown. Internet users navigating to www.amberalert.gov are now met with a the Department of Justice seal and a message. Due to lack of funding, the website is now closed.
The alert system was developed following the 1996 murder of Amber Hagerman. The 9-year-old was abducted while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas. Four days later, her body was found outside an abandoned store.
Authorities determined Hagerman was sexually assaulted then murdered. Parents Donna and Richard Hagerman started an organization called People Against Sex Offenders. Their focus was on creating laws to protect children from predators.
As reported by AmberAlertCreator.com, their efforts eventually focused on law enforcement's initial response to child abductions. America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response was eventually signed into federal law.
The alert system includes messages broadcast through the Emergency Alert System. Some states have included text messages, highway signs, and Facebook pages. The DOJ AMBER Alert website was also created to assist in the effort.
Although the government's site is now closed, internet users can access the same information through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at MissingKids.com.
The site offers updated alerts and information to sign up for notifications. Also available is a list of state contacts, a map of alert plans, and information about missing and exploited children.
The alert system was created under federal law. However, alerts are the responsibility of state and local authorities. The decision to issue alerts is made at the local level. Therefore, the website closure has little impact on the alert system's operation.
AMBER Alerts are responsible for aiding in the recovery of 656 abducted children. Most recently an 8-year-old Ohio boy was abducted by his non-custodial father. The alert system reached a group of friends via text message.
Within hours, the friends recognized the vehicle in the alert and contacted authorities. The father was arrested and the boy was safely returned to his mother.
The AMBER alert website is currently closed. However, the vital system is still functioning as intended.
[Image via Flickr]