WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The seventh annual national AMBER Alert Symposium, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs (OJP), opened today in Phoenix, Arizona. The three-day training conference will include sessions highlighting expansion of the AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert system in tribal communities and along the U.S. southern border, Child Abduction Response Team (CART) updates and specialized investigative techniques in child abduction cases. Federal, state, tribal and local representatives from the United States, as well as international partners from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, will attend the conference.
To date, 525 abducted children have been brought home safely as a direct result of an AMBER Alert. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and 15 tribes have AMBER Alert plans. Additionally, OJP is providing training and technical assistance to expand child recovery efforts in tribal communities.
"Keeping the AMBER Alert system vital and powerful relies on the work of many partners and supporters," said Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for OJP and National AMBER Alert Coordinator. "Our ongoing commitment is to improve and strengthen the AMBER Alert network to protect all children and rescue them if they are abducted or missing."
Child abduction victims and their families are a major focus at the symposium. Diena Thompson, mother of 7-year-old Somer Thompson, who was kidnapped and killed in 2009, will join other families to share experiences and offer insights on bringing abducted children home.
OJP will present awards for outstanding accomplishments in strengthening the AMBER Alert program in the following categories:
- AMBER Alert Coordinator of the Year: Lieutenant Charles Fleeger -- Lieutenant Charles Fleeger, of the College Station Texas Police Department, AMBER Alert Coordinator for Texas Region 3, has dedicated countless hours to developing a Child Abduction Response Team (CART) for a seven-county region in Texas. Lt. Fleeger's meetings and trainings for CART team members and other law enforcement personnel have ensured the success of the regional Brazos Valley Child Abduction Response Team.
- AMBER Alert Broadcaster/Media Person of the Year: Dennis Lyle -- Dennis Lyle, CEO/President of the Illinois Broadcasters Association (IBA), has been a partner with the Illinois AMBER Alert program since its development in 2001. As a member of the Illinois AMBER Alert Task Force, he hosted the June 2010 task force meeting during the IBA annual conference and brought the Newsplex training—a system allowing access to multiple news-servers simultaneously by merging content into one single virtual news-server—to Illinois in 2010.
- AMBER Alert Law Enforcement Leadership Award: Eric Garcia -- Lieutenant Eric Garcia, Public Information Officer and Associate Broadcast Media Coordinator for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and AMBER Alert Coordinator for New Mexico, provides education and training on AMBER Alert laws, regulations, and protocols. He has conducted more than two dozen AMBER Alert training sessions this year, participated in the Media Broadcast Association's training sessions, and provided training to the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Dispatcher Schools.
- AMBER Alert Citizen Award: Mike Grant -- Mike Grant, of Milton, New Hampshire, responded to an alert for a 2-year-old girl on November 9, 2009. The girl's father abducted her after breaking into her mother's home and assaulting her mother. Mike Grant heard the AMBER Alert, issued throughout Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. When Grant recognized the pickup truck described in the alert, he approached the vehicle and convinced the girl's father to turn himself in to the police. The girl was rescued and reunited with her mother.
- AMBER Alert Citizen Award: Victor Perez -- Victor Perez, of Fresno, California responded to an AMBER Alert for an 8-year-old girl who was abducted in a truck from her Fresno home. When Perez saw the truck, he drove his own vehicle in front of it, stopping the driver. The perpetrator pushed the child out of his truck and sped away. The California Highway Patrol later apprehended the perpetrator. The girl was reunited with her family.
The AMBER Alert system began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. The system was created in memory of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas who was abducted while riding her bicycle and later found murdered. AMBER Alerts are emergency messages broadcast when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. For more information about the AMBER Alert program, visit amberalert.gov.
The symposium continues through Thursday, November 18, at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, 122 North Second Street, Phoenix, AZ.
The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has seven bureaus and offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; the Community Capacity Development Office, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART). More information about OJP and its components can be found at http://www.ojp.gov .
SOURCE Office of Justice Programs