AMBER Alert Notification System
The North Carolina Child Alert Notification (NC CAN) System was formally established in the summer of 2002 with NCGA General Statute § 143B-499.7. The purpose of NC CAN was to establish a statewide system to quickly disseminate information regarding abducted children. An amendment was signed by Governor Michael Easley on June 12, 2003, renaming the NC CAN system the AMBER Alert system. North Carolina first AMBER Alert was activated in August 2003.
The system is a voluntary cooperative effort among North Carolina radio and television broadcasters, local and state law enforcement, the Department of Transportation and the N.C. Center for Missing Persons. The goal is to use local radio and TV stations, electronic highway signs, lottery terminals and cell phones to immediately notify citizens of a criminally abducted child in their area.
Where and why did AMBER Alert first start?
The AMBER Alert System began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. AMBER stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was created as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then brutally murdered. Other states and communities soon set up their own AMBER plans as the idea was adopted across the nation.
How does it work?
Once law enforcement has determined that a child has been abducted and the abduction meets AMBER Alert criteria, law enforcement notifies broadcasters and state transportation officials. AMBER Alerts interrupt regular programming and are broadcast on radio and television and DOT highway signs. AMBER Alerts can also be re-disseminated through lottery, digital billboards, Internet Ad exchanges, Internet Service Providers, Internet search engines, as well as wireless devices such as mobile phones.
How effective has it been?
Now in its 26th year of operation, the AMBER Alert program as of May 1, 2022, has contributed to the recovery of 1,114 children and wireless emergency alerts resulted in the rescue of 123 children. There are 82 AMBER Alert plans throughout the United States.
AMBER Alerts also serve as deterrents to those who would prey upon our children. AMBER Alert cases have shown that some perpetrators release the abducted child after hearing the AMBER Alert.
Step 1 - Local Law Enforcement Investigates
When a parent or caregiver calls local law enforcement to report their missing child, the law enforcement agency must first investigate the case and determine if the criteria warrant a request for an AMBER Alert. According to North Carolina law, an AMBER Alert can only be issued if all of the criteria are met.
Step 2 - Local Law Enforcement Calls NC Center for Missing Persons
After completing the preliminary investigation and determining the case meets the qualifying criteria, law enforcement will call the NC Center for Missing Persons ( 1-800-522-5437) for approval to request an AMBER Alert. At this stage the AMBER Alert maybe denied, delayed or approved depending on information received from the requesting agency.
The law enforcement agency must have enough identifying information: such as description of child, abductor and vehicle information. It does no good to issue an AMBER Alert if there is not sufficient information that can be provided to the public to assist with the search. The law enforcement agency will enter the case into the National Crime Information Center to begin tracking the case.
Step 3 - NC Missing Persons Center (NCCMP) Authorizes AMBER Alert Activation
The NC Center for Missing Persons is the only agency that is authorized to issue an AMBER Alert.
Once authorization is given the requesting agency will be instructed to go NCCMP website (https://nccmp.ncdps.gov) and complete the forms for requesting and AMBER Alert. Once the completed form is received and AFTER the EAS is released the information will be submitted and released to the media.
Once authorization is given SHP Troop “C” Communications will issue an Emergency Alert System (EAS) message. The EAS message is technically THE AMBER Alert. Descriptive information about the child and abductor will be announced in a pre-recorded message or displayed as a ‘crawl' message across the bottom of the television screen.
The AMBER Alert System shall make every effort to disseminate information on missing children as quickly as possible when the following criteria are met:
The child is 17 years of age or younger;
The abduction is not known or suspected to be by a parent of the child, unless the child’s life is suspected to be in danger of injury or death;
The child is believed:
To have been abducted, or
To be in danger of injury or death;
The child is not a runaway or voluntarily missing; and
The abduction has been reported to and investigated by a law enforcement agency.
If the abduction of the child is known or suspected to be by a parent of the child, the Center, in its discretion, may disseminate information through the AMBER Alert System if the child is believed to be in danger of injury or death. It will also be the responsibility of the Center to determine whether there is sufficient identifying data to justify an AMBER Alert activation.
If a child is missing, family and friends should immediately notify local law enforcement. If a child is abducted, time is valuable.
Go to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children more tips on what to do if your child is missing.
- File a police or sheriff's report. Include information on where the child was last known to be, as well as names of the individual's family and friends.
- Provide officers with a recent photo as soon as possible. Law enforcement can immediately enter child abduction cases into the FBI's National Crime Information Center. The center allows officers nationwide to share information about endangered children, increasing the chance that the child will be found.
- Request that law enforcement put out a Be On the Look Out (BOLO) Bulletin.
- Ask for an organized search with the use of tracking dogs if possible.
- Limit access to your home until law enforcement investigators arrive and have collected evidence. Do not touch or remove anything from your child's room or your home. There may be clues to the whereabouts of your child.
- Give investigator all facts and circumstances related to disappearance including what efforts have already been made.
- Write a detailed description of clothing worn by the child and any personal items your child had at the time of his or her disappearance. Note any birthmarks, scars, tattoos, or mannerisms, and supply any photo that may show the marks. Give this information to the investigator.
- Make copies of recent photos for law enforcement, news media, the N.C. Center for Missing Persons, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and any volunteer groups aiding in the search.
- Designate one person to answer your telephone. Keep a pad of paper by the phone to jot down names, telephone numbers, date and time of calls and the purpose of the call. You may want to get law enforcement to put a tracer on your phone and get an answering machine that will tape calls. You may also want to add caller ID. If you do not have a cell phone, you may want to get one so that you can be reached at any time. For cases that are older than 30 days, help officers locate dental and medical records.
N.C. Center for Missing Persons: 1-800-522-5437
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 1-800–THE LOST (1-800-843-5678)
To store photos and vital information about your children so that it's literally right at hand if you need it, download the application below. You can show the pictures and provide physical identifiers such as height and weight to security or police officers on the spot. Using a special tab on the app, you can also quickly and easily e-mail the information to authorities with a few clicks.