In January 1996, nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted from her Dallas, Texas area neighborhood while she was riding her bicycle. A neighbor witnessed the abduction and reported the incident, in detail, to the police. Unfortunately, Amber's body was found four days later in a ditch only four miles from her home. Following this tragedy, a concerned citizen had an idea. This idea later developed into the AMBER Alert plan.
Purpose of the Louisiana AMBER Alert plan:
It is a statewide, cohesive effort between law enforcement and broadcasters, whose goal is to safely locate an abducted child within the critical two-to-three-hour time period following an abduction. It is an investigative tool and not designed to be relied upon as the sole means of recovery.
While this is a national effort, there is not one unified plan among states. Some states have statewide plans, while other states may have AMBER Alert plans on a regional or metropolitan level, and each plan operates independently of one another. In fact, there are over 100 plans in the country, and many are not interoperable. The Louisiana AMBER Alert plan is a statewide plan which can act in conjunction with other plans if so requested. The Louisiana AMBER Alert plan became operational in October 2002.
The Louisiana AMBER Alert plan is not:
Various groups and organizations, both non-profit and for-profit, may claim to be soliciting funds for Louisiana AMBER Alert. If you are solicited, please contact a Louisiana State Police coordinator.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, roughly 366,000 children are reported missing each year in the United States -- that's roughly 1,000 per day. The largest group of missing children is "endangered runaways," followed by victims of "family abductions" and "lost, injured, or otherwise missing children." The smallest group, yet at the highest risk, are the victims of "nonfamily abductions."
National figures from 2020:
As of December 31, 2020, 1029 children were successfully located in the United States because of the AMBER Alert system. Since the inception of the Louisiana AMBER Alert plan through June 30, 2021, there have been 19 activations for Louisiana children and six out-of-state activation requests. In all cases originating in Louisiana, the children were successfully and safely located.
A law enforcement agency has many responsibilities and duties, especially in the case of a missing child. If the investigating officers have reasonable grounds and evidence to believe the child was abducted, they can contact Louisiana State Police Fusion Center to request an AMBER Alert activation. Louisiana's AMBER Alert Plan will only be activated upon authorization by the Louisiana State Police AMBER Alert Coordinator, or their designee, and only if the situation meets the criteria. LSP is the filtering agency, which forwards the information to a broadcaster contact. It will be used only for serious child abduction cases, and it will not be used for runaway or most parental abduction cases unless the circumstance is proven to be life-threatening to the child.
The following criteria MUST be met before an AMBER Alert is activated:
Everyone involved in the Louisiana AMBER Alert Plan is extremely serious about each and every AMBER Alert request that is submitted. Each one is reviewed thoroughly, and if an error is made, it will be on the side of the child's safety.
Louisiana AMBER Alert Reporting Form submittals will be accepted from a law enforcement agency only.
FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT USE ONLY
The entire AMBER Alert activation process is a detailed, ongoing procedure until the case has been resolved. After LSP personnel receive the Reporting Form, it has to be reviewed to ensure it meets the criteria and enough information is available to make an AMBER Alert activation viable. Follow-up telephone calls may be required for more detailed information or clarification. If approved by the LA AMBER Alert State Coordinator or his/her designee, the information is formatted for the voice message to be disseminated to Louisiana broadcasters. The information is then forwarded to the LSP Command Staff, to the State's AMBER Alert partners, and a backup copy is faxed and/or emailed to the media statewide. All on-duty patrol troopers, all law enforcement agencies statewide, and the Louisiana Lottery is forwarded the AMBER Alert information. If applicable, the LA Department of Transportation and Development is requested to activate its variable message boards.
All AMBER Alerts will be sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) by LSP.
Following the initial alert, the AMBER Alert will be broadcast every twenty (20) minutes during the first three hours and every thirty (30) minutes thereafter for the next two hours or until such time that an "end of alert" message is issued by Louisiana State Police. Local broadcast stations exercise independent discretion to repeat the message more frequently and to determine the frequency in which the message is re-broadcast following the expiration of the above-mentioned five (5) hour period following the initial alert. Once Louisiana State Police has received official notice that the child has been found, an "end of alert," message will be issued to cancel the AMBER Alert.
Level II Endangered and Missing Child Advisory
If the current case does not meet Louisiana's criteria, there is a Level II action plan called an Endangered/Missing Child Advisory. Louisiana State Police can take the available information from the requesting law enforcement agency and forward that information to all media statewide from the agency's current statewide media contact list. The requesting law enforcement agency and its telephone number will be listed as the contact for the public. A Level II – Endangered/Missing Child Advisory may be upgraded at a later time if the facts of the case warrant. The Level II – Endangered/Missing Child Advisory does not utilize the Emergency Alert System and will not interrupt programming.
FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT USE ONLY
The Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters take the Louisiana AMBER Alert program very seriously and will not tolerate any attempt to abuse or misuse the system. Due to the increased trend in the exaggeration of circumstances stated in order to prompt the activation of an AMBER Alert, the Louisiana Legislature amended L.R.S. 14:403.3, which took effect on August 15, 2005.
§14.403.3. Reports of missing children; procedures; false reports or communications; penalties
A.(1) Any state or local law enforcement agency receiving a report of a missing child and having reasonable grounds to believe such report is accurate shall within forty-eight hours after the date of receipt of the report notify each of the following of the fact and contents of such report:
(a) The Department of Health and Human Resources.
(b) The Department of Public Safety and Corrections, if it did not originally receive the report.
(c) The office of the sheriff for the parish in which such report was received, if it did not originally receive the report.
(d) The office of the sheriff for all parishes adjacent to the parish in which such report was received.
(e) The National Crime Information Computer System.
(2) The law enforcement agency may also notify any other appropriate local, state, or federal agency of the fact and contents of such report.
B. No person shall knowingly file a false missing child report with a law enforcement agency.
C. No person shall intentionally communicate false information concerning a missing child to a law enforcement agency when such information is communicated with the specific intent to delay or otherwise hinder an investigation to locate the child.
D. Whoever violates the provisions of Subsection B of this section shall be fined not more than two thousand dollars or be imprisoned for not more than one year, with or without hard labor, or both.
Acts 1985, No. 393, §1; Acts 2005, No. 503, §1.
E. Whoever violates the provisions of Subsection C of this Section shall be imprisoned at hard labor for not more than five years.
Acts 1985, No. 393, §1; Acts 2005, No. 503, §1; Acts 2012, No. 446, §1; Acts 2012, No. 454, §1; Acts 2012, No. 477, §1, eff. June 3, 2012; Acts 2020, No. 96, §1.
§9011.1. Transmission of Amber Alert and other emergency information
A. The legislature deems it necessary to utilize all forms of communication available to transmit information concerning child abductions. The "Amber Alert" system is the cooperation between law enforcement agencies and broadcasters to disseminate urgent bulletins in the most serious child abduction cases via the national Emergency Alert System to air a description of the missing child and suspected abductor.
B. The [Louisiana Lottery] corporation shall enter into an agreement with the state police to help distribute information provided by the state police. The corporation will transmit a message to all on-line retailers which will be displayed on the lottery terminal. The corporation will encourage retailers to print and post the abduction information received in their stores, thereby increasing the distribution and visibility of vital details about child abductions.
C. The agreement shall also include provisions to authorize the transmission of other information the state police may consider imperative to be distributed to the public relative to other abductions or state or national emergencies.
Acts 2003, No. 229, §1.
§1737. Immunity from liability; implementation of the "Amber Alert" system
A. Louisiana's statewide "Amber Alert" system is a cooperative effort among the Louisiana State Police and local law enforcement agencies, Louisiana Sheriffs' Association and Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police, working in conjunction with the Amber Alert Foundation of Louisiana, the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters, radio and television stations, the Louisiana Cable and Telecommunications Association, cable television operators, the Louisiana Lottery Corporation and its retailers throughout the state and other entities who may become an active component part of this effort. This statewide system provides law enforcement agencies with intermediary access to the transmitted signals of those radio and television broadcast stations and cable systems, across the state which voluntarily participate during the critical minutes following an initial report to local authorities of the abduction of a child. By utilizing remote access equipment linked to the National Emergency Alert System (EAS) and an electronic mail network, maintained by the Louisiana State Police, all radio and television broadcast stations, cable television operators and the Louisiana Lottery Corporation will receive an alert to interrupt programming, via the EAS, and transmit information about a child's abduction. Accurate information about the disappearance, together with a photograph and description of the child, will be disseminated to as many residents of the state as possible as quickly as possible. Citizens having information which may lead to the recovery of the abducted child will be requested to contact law enforcement agencies by calling 911, or their local law enforcement agency.
B. Overutilization of the EAS or false information could render the "Amber Alert" system ineffective; therefore, all necessary precautions to authenticate information and limit interruptions of local radio and television broadcasts shall be taken.
C. Any state police officer, members of other law enforcement entities, radio or television broadcasters, cable television operators, lottery corporation or lottery vendors who transmit or display, or who fail to transmit or display such information concerning an abducted child, and other entities who may become an active component of this effort, shall not be liable for any civil damages or criminal penalty as a result of any acts or omissions relative to the "Amber Alert" program.
D. The immunity herein granted to state police officers, members of other law enforcement entities, radio and television broadcasters, cable television operators, lottery corporation or lottery vendors as provided for in Subsection C of this Section shall extend to and include the officers, directors, members and employees of the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association, Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police, Louisiana Association of Broadcasters, Louisiana Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the Amber Alert Foundation of Louisiana.
Acts 2003, No. 59, §1, eff. May 23, 2003.
CHAPTER 24-B. PRE-AMBER ALERT ACTION PLAN
§2526. Pre-Amber Alert action plan; requirements; rules and regulations
A. The secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, jointly with the secretary of the Department of Social Services, shall institute a pre-Amber Alert action plan. The plan shall, at a minimum, consist of one or more programs to:
(1) Advise and educate parents on ways to prevent their children from being abducted.
(2) Advise and educate children on ways to prevent them from being abducted.
(3) Encourage parents to have readily available vital information about their children, such as a recent photograph and the child's height and weight, for law enforcement to use in case the child is abducted.
(4) Coordinate with and encourage the private sector to participate in secondary distribution programs that will enable the distribution of vital information on a child that has been abducted, including the creation and distribution of flyers and emailing and text messaging Amber Alerts.
B. The secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the Department of Social Services may promulgate rules and regulations, in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, to carry out the provisions of this Section.
C. The provisions of this Section shall be implemented provided funding is available.
Acts 2005, No. 503, §3.
Learn more about AMBER Alert's programs, training, and services at: Amber Alert Training and Technical Assistance
Sgt. Michelle King
Louisiana State Police
AMBER/Louisiana Clearinghouse for Missing & Exploited Children