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What is an AMBER Alert?

The AMBER Alert system provides the public with immediate and up-to-date information about a child abduction via widespread media broadcasts on television, radio and wireless devices, and solicits the public’s assistance with the safe and swift return of an abducted child.

The goal of an AMBER Alert is to involve as many community members as possible in the search for an abducted child — each community member becoming the eyes and the ears of law enforcement.

In Canada, AMBER Alert programs are provincially operated. While most provinces have AMBER Alert committees, only law enforcement can issue an AMBER Alert. AMBER Alerts are sent out through the Alert Ready emergency alert system, reaching Canadians through a number of mediums (e.g., cell phone, television, radio).

Criteria for issuing an AMBER Alert may vary from province to province, but basic requirements include:

  • The child is under the age of 18;
  • A belief that the child has been abducted;
  • A belief that the child is in grave danger;
  • Information is available that may help locate the child and/or the abductor (e.g., description of the child, the suspect, or the vehicle driven by the abductor); and
  • That the alert be issued within a reasonable amount of time from the moment of the abduction.

Issuing an AMBER Alert can be a very important tool in helping to locate a child and suspect. It is important to remember, however, that these alerts are not appropriate in every circumstance and their continued effectiveness depends on ensuring they are only used in cases that meet the criteria outlined above, and where time is of the essence.

What to do if you receive an AMBER Alert:

  1. Read it carefully
  2. Keep an eye out for the abducted child, the suspect, or the suspect vehicle
  3. Call the police immediately if you see or hear anything relevant

History of the AMBER Alert System

In 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was kidnapped from Arlington, Texas and brutally murdered. Her death had a profound impact on her community. In the wake of this tragedy, an emergency alert system was developed to facilitate the rapid distribution of information to the public about child abduction incidents. The system, named in remembrance of Amber Hagerman, was initially a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies and media broadcasters to send out emergency alerts to the public when a child was abducted and believed to be in imminent danger.

The information provided above is intended as general information only. It is not intended, and should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. For more information specific to your province, contact your local police.