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Essay

Amber Alerts

By David Yenches

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When my son was at nursery school in Tokyo in the late 1980s, my wife stopped on the street to say hello to Ryu-kun, a classmate of my son’s. Immediately, a police car pulled over and one officer asked this tall American woman how she knew the child and what his family name was. All she could answer was that she knew Ryu-kun’s mom from day care. They let her go after checking her alien registration card, but it was a frightening experience for both of them.

This was in the days when the police were searching for Tsutomu Miyazaki, who killed four girls aged from 4 to 7 in 1988-89. He was a troubled man who did troubling things, including eating some of his dead grandfather’s ashes.

Could the girls’ murders have been prevented? One answer to that may lie in America, in what we call the Amber Alert system.

Officially, Amber stands for America’s Missing; Broadcast Emergency Response, but it’s really named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old Texas girl who was abducted and murdered in 1996. Her tragic death inspired the alert system that now operates in all 50 states and Canada.

Canadian police have also joined with the FBI to cooperate on the Amber Alert network.

Amber Alerts appear on TV as well as on big social media sites, interrupting broadcasts to show details of the missing child ― a photo, age, name and clothing ― and hopefully a description of the abductor and vehicle they were driving with the license plate number.

Is this method effective? According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 75 percent of abductees are killed in the first three hours. But as of August 2016, there have also been 830 successful recoveries since the program started.

Here’s one recent success story. In Montana in February, a 5-year-old child was abducted from a yard by a man who ran away. The authorities put out Amber Alerts and people called in to give information. Based on those tips, the authorities caught the man, who told them where to find the child. The child was safely rescued.

In this and many more cases, children were found due to the Amber Alert network of concerned citizens and neighbors.

In the U.S. and Canada, Amber Alerts have strict guidelines to make sure the information really is serious ― that it’s not a hoax, someone crying wolf, a runaway kid or a parental custody dispute.

Many other countries have now joined this system, including Queensland state in Australia and many European countries.

In Japan, though, the only alerts you’ll see are for earthquakes and tsunamis. Maybe it’s time to look at a Japanese Amber Alert system.

アンバーアラート

米国で児童誘拐事件の解決策として90年代後半に導入され、今も一定の成果を上げている「アンバーアラート」。テレビやラジオ、SNSなどを通じ、緊急速報を地域の人々に伝えるシステムだ。

The Japan Times ST: September 23, 2016

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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