Vermont starts up Amber Alert program

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(Host) State officials have launched a program to help law enforcement agencies deal with child abduction cases. The so called “Amber Alert” system will notify members of the public through radio and TV announcements of any details surrounding an abduction. A series of roadside electronic signs will also be placed on some of Vermont’s interstate highways.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) According to law enforcement officials, the first few hours following the abduction of a child is the most critical time in apprehending the perpetrator of this crime. That’s why Vermont has become the 45th state in the country to put an emergency notification system into place to alert members of the public when an abduction has taken place.

The goal of the program is to provide the public with key details surrounding the case such as a description of the perpetrator and the color and make of their car in the hope that someone will see the vehicle and make a report to the police. When an abduction takes place, the state police will notify radio and TV stations across the state – the stations will immediately break into their programming to provide the public with whatever information is available.

Governor Jim Douglas says the information will also be flashed across the screens of Vermont lottery signboards throughout the state:

(Douglas) “The Amber Alert system will provide law enforcement with an important new tool to help save lives of our young people and reunite them with their families. When an alert is activated law enforcement agencies throughout the state immediately gain the assistance of listeners and viewers. Speed is an essential element of any effort to rescue a child. According to the Department of Justice, 74% of the children who were kidnapped and later found murdered were killed within the first three hours after being taken.”

(Kinzel) Senator Patrick Leahy co-sponsored a national Amber Alert law that will make federal grant money available to help individual states implement the program. He says it’s critical to put this system into place:

(Leahy) “I really think that we’re going to be safer in this state. I think we’re going to be safer for having this. Like everybody here, I pray that this is a system that we have in place and we’ll never ever use because there will never be a need to. But in our little state, if it is needed I know and we all know that sending out that Amber Alert you’re going to have 600,000 Vermonters who are immediately going to be on the look out for the child missing.”

(Kinzel) State law enforcement officials have applied for a federal grant that would allow them to place electronic signs along the side of busy highways to provide motorists with pertinent information about an abduction. These signs could also be used to alert drivers to hazardous road conditions. State Police Major Robert White says it will take at least a year to put this part of the system in place.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

Vermont Public Radio is a participant in the Amber Alert system.

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