Tuesday, January 21, 2014

AMBER ALERT THROWBACK - Bush Unveils Upgrade of Amber Alert System

Bush Unveils Upgrade of Amber Alert System

Published: October 3, 2002

President Bush listened with tears in his eyes today to wrenching stories from the parents of missing or murdered children, then announced that the federal government would spend $10 million to improve the Amber Alert systems set up to notify the public about abducted youths.

Mr. Bush also said that the Justice Department would name a new Amber Alert coordinator, and that it would develop a national standard for Amber systems -- which include broadcasting messages on television and radio stations and posting information on electronic freeway signs -- to try to accelerate the dissemination of alerts.

''The kidnapping of every child is a parent's worst nightmare,'' Mr. Bush said at a White House conference on missing, exploited and runaway children, with a large backdrop of photographs of missing children behind him. ''Yet too many moms and dads have experienced this nightmare across America.''

Mr. Bush added that he and his wife, Laura, had just met with parents ''who have had the most precious person in their lives suddenly and brutally taken away from them.''

Those parents included Rebecca DeMauro Petty of Oklahoma, whose 12-year-old daughter, Andria, was abducted, raped and murdered by an uncle in Arkansas in 1999. Ms. DeMauro Petty, who wore a lapel pin with her daughter's photograph, told Mr. Bush of how the killer even took part in the search for her daughter.

''God bless you,'' Mr. Bush said.

The president also heard from Sharon Brooks of Lancaster, Calif., whose 16-year-old daughter, Tamara, was kidnapped in August with another teenager, Jacqueline Marris, in a nationally publicized abduction. The two were later found through the Amber Alert program, and their abductor, a man identified as Roy Dean Ratliff, was shot to death after resisting when sheriff's deputies pulled over his car and ordered him out.

''The Amber Alert system is, I'm sure, what saved Tamara and Jackie,'' Ms. Brooks said.

Mr. Bush met with Ms. Brooks and the other parents a few blocks from the White House at the Ronald Reagan Building, where the conference was held. Mr. Bush announced the conference this summer as concerns about a rash of kidnappings heightened across the country, even though statistics show that the number of child abductions by strangers has fallen in recent years.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, about 100 children are abducted by strangers each year, down from a range of 200 to 300 during the 1980's.

Amber Alert programs have been adopted in at least 20 states in recent months, including New York, New Jersey, California and Florida, and in dozens of smaller areas. The system was named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl who was kidnapped six years ago from Arlington, Tex., and killed.

Last month, the Senate passed a bill to provide $25 million to help establish a national Amber Alert system. Mr. Bush urged the House of Representatives to pass a similar measure.

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