6-month-old AMBER cellphone system already saving lives, director reports
An executive with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said that a 6-month old emergency warning program to instantly connect smartphone users to AMBER alerts is already saving lives.
Robert Hoover, director of special programs for the missing children division of the Washington-based center, said the program alerts cellphone users across the country with free, automatic notifications about abducted children in their specific areas.
The Wireless Emergency Alerts, known as WEA, suffered a few glitches after they went into effect on Dec. 31.
In mid-January, cellphone users in Pennsylvania and Florida received messages about abductions of children that had occurred several hundred miles away.
That, however, does not diminish the value of the alert program, Hoover said.
“Any time there is an AMBER alert, it's a tool that law enforcement can use to quickly and safely rescue a child,” Hoover said.
“The more eyes and ears out there in a specific area, once authorities receive information that a child has been abducted, the smaller the haystack they are looking at becomes,” he said.
CTIA, The Wireless Association, an international nonprofit trade association, developed the system to distribute alerts — originated by police departments and other agencies — to cellphones through service carriers.
It met with success on Feb. 20, when Minneapolis police activated a wireless alert about an 8-month-old girl abducted from her home. A woman saw the alert and discussed it with her father during a telephone call.
“When she was speaking to her father describing the alert, her father told her that a similar vehicle was parked right across the street,” Hoover said.
The woman called 911 and reported the car's location. The baby, Isabell Diaz Castillo, was reunited with her panicked mother about four hours after she was taken by a family acquaintance, who was arrested.
In January, cellphone users in the Pittsburgh region were startled and confused when they received a wireless alert issued by Philadelphia Police after a 5-year-old child went missing. A similar scenario played out in Florida about the disappearance of a 2-year-old. Both children were found safe.
Despite the initial confusion, Hoover said, the wireless alerts will engage citizens in the search for missing children in the critical three hours after an abduction. “It's truly a partnership with the media, technology and the public and harnessing all these abilities to find children as quickly as possible,” he said.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Steve Limani, spokesman for Troop A in Greensburg, said the system could be invaluable.
“Any time when you give us another investigative tool — especially in cases as important as locating an abducted child — it is a very good thing,” Limani said.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh man pleads guilty in Monessen shooting
- Trick-or-treat in Mt. Pleasant set for Sunday
- Kin of 2013 DUI crash victim in Hempfield lose young family in fire
- Hempfield killer Stahl ordered to pay for slain wife’s funeral
- Westmoreland group gets pet oxygen masks for area fire departments
- North Huntingdon church shaken by youth pastor’s child porn rap
- East Huntingdon man, 91, finds 2nd career as a woodworker
- Mt. Pleasant residents voice support for Zilli as borough police chief
- Westmoreland prison online visit program delayed again
- DNA evidence in alleged June 2013 rape leads to Latrobe man’s arrest
- Education issues highlight 57th House District race