HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the Pennsylvania State Police recognized AMBER Alert Awareness Day at Troop H headquarters in Harrisburg. AMBER Alert, the national early warning notification system for abducted children marks its 21st year in 2017. The AMBER Alert System was created as a legacy to nine-year-old Amber Hagerman who was abducted near her Texas home on January 13, 1996. Her body was found four days later in a creek less than five miles from where she went missing.
Corporal Robert Levan, supervisor of the Pennsylvania State Police Missing Persons Unit, was joined by Captain Derrick Baker, director of the Special Investigations Division, Pennsylvania Lottery Commission Security Director Jim Morgan, and Outdoor Advertising Association of Pennsylvania President George Merovich to highlight successes and of the AMBER alert system and acknowledge the contributions of both public and private stakeholders.
"During the past 15 years, the Pennsylvania AMBER Alert system has played a direct role in the safe recovery of 96 abducted children who were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury," said Corporal Robert Levan. "Crucial information that directly leads to the safe return of a missing child often comes from a member of the public after receiving AMBER Alert information."
At the news conference, State Police stressed the importance of teaching children about abduction safety and taking action to prevent abductions. Experts remind parents to prepare children to act – talk to them about stranger danger, make sure they know how to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency, and use role-playing scenarios to help children learn to recognize and respond to risky situations. Parents are also urged to keep a child identification kit, which includes a recent color photo and descriptive details such as age, height, and weight.
The Pennsylvania AMBER Alert System was established in 2002 and provides information about child abductions through radio and television broadcast messages, lottery retail terminals, highway advisory signs, and text messages.
Levan highlighted the most recent Pennsylvania AMBER Alert as an example of the program's success. It occurred on December 31, 2016, when an 8-month-old girl was abducted in Mercer County. The child was found safe 330 miles away in Berks County in less than an hour after the activation, thanks to an observant pedestrian who had received the wireless AMBER Alert message, spotted the suspect's vehicle, and notified local police. The suspect in the abduction, 36-year-old Antonio Velazquez-Rupert, was also charged in connection with the homicide of the infant's mother.
Levan thanked the following agencies and organizations that partner with state police in the operation of the AMBER Alert System: Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Pennsylvania Lottery, Office of State Senator Michael O'Pake, Pennsylvania Cable and Telecommunications Association, Municipal Police Officers' Education and Training Commission, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, Outdoor Advertising Association of Pennsylvania, and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
"The partners play key roles in building public awareness of the system, utilizing their resources to get relevant information out to the public during an alert, providing training to law enforcement officers who use the system, and implementing revisions in the system that result from legislative changes," Levan said.
For more information on the Pennsylvania AMBER Alert system, including activation requirements and other frequently asked questions, visit www.amber.pa.gov.
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SOURCE Pennsylvania State Police Department