Plan gives tips to help thwart kidnappings

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 1, 2002

The headlines only confirm every parent's worst fears.

Another child kidnapping galvanizes everyone into action.

The high profile child abductions n Michigan, Utah, California and Missouri bring an entire nation together in hopeful prayers the child will be found safe.

Email newsletter signup

It happens, but not always. It is those tragedies which have resulted in a new tool for law enforcement agencies.

The AMBER Alert Plan is that tool.

America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response plan was created by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Jacob Wetterling Foundation.

The plan, unveiled June 13 -- is a partnership between local law enforcement agencies, the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, DPS/BCA and Minnesota Broadcasters Association.

State Sen. Grace Schwab (R-Albert Lea) is a strong advocate of the new AMBER plan.

"The AMBER plan is an initiative aimed at helping police quickly locate abducted children under the age of 17 whom the investigative agency believes to be in great danger by notifying communities that child has been seized," Schwab explained.

"This initiative is conveyed through employing and early-warning network, which helps law enforcement to quickly convey key descriptive information to the general pubic

via television and radio soon after a child has been abducted," Schwab said.

Terese Amazi, Mower County Sheriff's Department chief deputy, is enthusiastic about the new tool for aiding in solving child abduction crimes

"Every law enforcement agency has received an AMBER plan kit," Amazi said.

"I think we have some good plans already in place, but anything that can speed up the process will only help us to do our job."

Classes will be held to introduce all local public safety personnel to the AMBER plan.

Amazi stressed the new resource for law enforcement will not replace any programs already in place.

Such programs, like Drug Abuse Resistance Education and child identification programs and others will continue.

Amazi said individual communities , such as Adams and Grand Meadow, have their own local initiatives to promote child safety as well as the Mower County Sheriff's Department's.

If the sheriff's department or any other local law enforcement agency must implement AMBER, here's how it works.

n A chid abduction report must meet specific guidelines.

n After the law jurisdiction is notified, the BCA is notified and pertinent information is transmitted to the Minnesota Crime Alert Network and Emergency Alert System.

n As soon as broadcasters receive the information, they will be expected to broadcast it once every 15 minutes for two hours and once every half hour for the following three hours.

— the information, including photography, will be disseminated to

gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, motels, bars and other businesses.

The immediacy of sharing the child abduction information is similar to how radio and television stations broadcast dangerous weather information to their listeners and viewers.

Schwab said the AMBER plan was well-received by the Minnesota Legislature although over-shadowed by other legislative news-making events this spring.

Schwab also said there is proof the AMBER plan works. "Since the creation of the plan in 1996 in the

Dallas-Fort Worth region, the plan has been credited with helping return 17 children to their families," the state senator said. "There are, at least, 35 states utilizing the AMBER plan"

Mower County chief deputy Amazi said the AMBER plan could have assisted law enforcement agencies when convenience store clerk Katie Poirer was kidnapped from a gas station and convenience store along a freeway near Moose Lake.

Donald Blom was arrested and convicted of the kidnapping-murder of the young woman.

"Who knows?" said Amazi, "If we had something like this when Katie Poier was kidnapped it might have made a difference in the outcome."

(Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at