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01-13-09, 09:55 PM #1
Regional Toll-Free Number for Amber Alerts Unveiled
Regional toll-free number unveiled for Amber Alerts
By Debbi Baker (Contact) Union-Tribune Staff Writer
3:42 p.m. January 13, 2009
SAN DIEGO – The Sheriff's Department on Tuesday unveiled a new regional toll-free number designed to make it easier for the public to report tips about abducted children.
The public can now call (877) 3KIDSAFE and their information will go directly to the law enforcement jurisdiction in the county handling the kidnapping, said Sgt. Mark O'Connor, sheriff's Amber Alert coordinator.
The intent is to provide information and tips directly to detectives searching for abducted children and to give the public an easy number to remember.
“In Amber Alerts, time is of the essence,” O'Connor said. “Statistics show that when a child is abducted and killed, 74 percent are killed within the first three hours.”
San Diego is the first city in the state to utilize a regional number that can be quickly transferred to the appropriate agency. All 13 law enforcement agencies in San Diego County are participating, O'Connor said.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Amber Alerts have been responsible for the return of 432 children nationwide and 176 in California since the program began 13 years ago.
It was created after the Jan. 13, 1996, abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas, who was riding her bike near her grandparents' home when she was kidnapped.
Her body was found four days later in a creek bed with her throat slit.
Jan. 13 is National Amber Alert Awareness Day.
O'Connor said that the new number is not meant to replace 911, and that if someone spots a child being abducted or a suspect, they should call the emergency number.
But after an Amber Alert is issued, officials can receive thousands of tips regarding sightings and other information that has to be recorded and evaluated, and the new number will help expedite that process, O'Connor said.
“When the eyes and ears of the community are looking for a child, we have a better ability to recover that child safely,” he said.
As officials were announcing the new phone number, an Amber Alert was issued for a girl abducted in San Jose. O'Connor said a man who took the child dropped her off unharmed after seeing the alert on a Caltrans sign.
The sergeant said more reports like that are coming in from throughout the country.Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.
Do not puff, shade, skew, tailor, firm up, stretch, massage,
or otherwise distort statements of fact.FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley
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