Utah AMBER Alert Plan
The Utah AMBER Alert Plan is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement, transportation and media to rapidly disseminate information about a suspect and victim to law enforcement agencies and the public when a child has been abducted. Utah’s AMBER Alert Plan has been part of the state’s comprehensive child recovery strategy since it was launched on April 2, 2002.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office (AG), Utah Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI), Utah Broadcasters Association (UBA), Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), Utah Chiefs of Police Association (UCPA) and the Utah Sheriffs Association (USA).
Additional resources are available through the U.S. Department of Justice, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, A Child Is Missing, Laura Recovery Center, other members of the media, private businesses and individuals.
This is a statewide plan that overlaps county and municipal lines. Utah will ask other states to get involved if we have evidence that the abducted child has been taken into another state.
Utah AMBER Alerts are initiated solely by Utah law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement agencies must follow strict activation criteria before an alert is activated. The agency’s administration must give approval before initiating an AMBER Alert. The primary consideration in the development of the activation criteria was the identification of those abducted children who are at the greatest risk of serious bodily injury or death.
In order for the Utah AMBER Alert Plan to be activated, law enforcement must be satisfied the following criteria have been met:
- Is this believed to be a child abduction?
- Is this child 17 years of age or younger?
- Is the victim believed to be facing imminent danger, serious bodily injury or death?
- Is there information that could assist the public in the safe recovery of the victim or apprehension of a suspect?
The AMBER Alert cannot be used for custodial disputes or runaway cases that don’t meet the criteria. Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to issue an Endangered Person Advisory for cases that don’t meet the criteria.
Here are the steps a law enforcement agency must take once it has been determined that the criteria have been met:
- The agency must call BCI at (801)965-4446 to let staff know that an alert is about to be initiated. BCI can also answer any questions about the criteria or the alert.
- The agency must prepare the “Utah AMBER Alert” form in full using the UAA message with the Utah Criminal Justice System (UCJIS).
- The agency must enter the AMBER Alert into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) using the AMBER Alert flag (AA).
- Obtain a photograph of the abducted child and/or suspect as soon as possible and email it to the address provided by BCI when you call.
- The agency should set up a phone “hotline” to handle tips and appoint a public information officer to handle the press.
- The agency should consider contacting the Utah Department of Public Safety, Salt Lake Communication Center at 801-887-3800 to activate the AG's Child Abduction Response Team (CART) and/or a regional CART. A CART can provide specialized expertise and additional resources to help recover an abducted child.
- The agency should also consider using A Child Is Missing (ACIM) to contact residents and businesses where the child was last seen. ACIM provides an automated telephone service free of charge. ACIM can be contacted at 888-875-ACIM or 888-875-2246.
Other states may be willing to initiate the AMBER Alert on behalf of Utah law enforcement agencies under the following conditions:
- The agency provides the information to show the case meets that state’s AMBER Alert criteria (the criteria for other states may be slightly different).
- The agency provides enough information that the victim is in that state and an AMBER Alert would help in the safe recovery of the child.
Agencies wishing to make an interstate AMBER Alert activation should contact BCI at (801)965-4446. BCI will provide the agency with the contact person in that state to help initiate the AMBER Alert.
The Utah Criminal Justice Information System (UCJIS) will distribute AMBER Alerts to law enforcement, broadcasters, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Ports of Entry, Utah Trucking Association and members of the public who have registered to receive the alerts. Those alerts will be sent to computers, cell phones and text messaging devices.
- BCI will use the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to initially notify Utah broadcasters of the alert. KSL-TV, the state EAS broadcaster, will distribute the alerts to broadcasters after the initial notification.
- BCI will also post the alert on its website www.bci.utah.gov.
- UDOT will distribute the alerts on Variable Message Signs (VMS), Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) transmitters, 511 travel information line and the UDOT Traffic website at www.udot.utah.gov.
- Utah broadcasters will air the alert every 15 minutes for the first three hours after the alert is initiated. Broadcasters should air the EAS audio message and a crawl or break into programming with their own on-air personnel. Before the three hours are up, broadcasters will be notified through UCJIS if the investigating agency would like to request additional alerts.
- Media outlets will also post alerts on their web sites.
- NCMEC will disseminate the alerts through secondary distributors, i.e. Internet providers, trucking associations, airport security etc.
- Numerous private businesses have agreed to put the alerts on their electronic signs.
LAW ENFORCEMENT RESPONSIBILITIES:
- Each agency should have an established protocol to govern their use of the AMBER Alert Plan within the agency’s child recovery plan.
- All law enforcement personnel should be trained on the AMBER Alert criteria and notification process.
- Each agency agrees to designate correct personnel who have the authority to issue the AMBER Alert.
- Each agency agrees to abide by the established criteria and activation procedure and all other components of the plan.
- Each agency agrees to respond to any questions or concerns raised by the AMBER Alert Advisory Committee.
- Each media outlet should have an established protocol to govern the receipt and broadcast of an AMBER Alert.
- Each media outlet should train all employees on the AMBER Alert criteria and the steps to follow to broadcast the alert.
- Broadcasters will air the AMBER Alert every 15 minutes for the first 3 hours and will consider issuing additional alerts at the request of the initiating law enforcement agency.
- Each media outlet should post the AMBER Alert on their web sites.
- Each media outlet should help educate the public about the AMBER Alert through news stories, public service announcements and participating in AMBER Alert tests.
UDOT will verify with BCI that an AMBER Alert has been activated. UDOT will then send the AMBER Alert message to the following:
- All Utah Variable Message Signs
- All Highway Advisory Radio transmitters
- The 511 Travel Information Line
- The UDOT website
The Variable Message Signs will contain the following message when the suspect’s vehicle information is known:
LICENSE PLATE NUMBER
The Variable Message Signs will contain the following message when the suspect’s vehicle is not known:
CALL 511 OR
CHECK LOCAL NEWS
All signs and announcements will remain active for 8 hours unless law enforcement makes a special request for a time extension. After the alert has been deactivated, UDOT will send out a message stating: “The AMBER Alert has been discontinued.”
- BCI can contact other states if an agency would like to broadcast an AMBER Alert outside of Utah. Agencies should call BCI at (801)965-4446.
- The Utah Public Information Officer Association can provide a PIO to help your agency. The association can be reached at (801)541-8145 or (801)554-5422.
- A Child Is Missing will contact residents and businesses in the area where the child was last seen by using an automated telephone system. The service is free by calling the toll-free number (888)875-ACIM (888-875-2246).
- Team Adam provides experienced child abduction investigators, technical assistance and equipment for free of charge to agencies during child abduction and sexual exploitation investigations. Call toll-free (800)THE-LOST (800-843-5678).
- Project Alert provides retired federal, state and local law enforcement officers who volunteer their time and expertise as unpaid consultants in missing or exploited child cases. All travel arrangements and costs are paid for by NCMEC. Call toll-free (800)THE-LOST (800-843-5678).
- Laura Recovery Center will help organize community ground searches. The non-profit organization offers its services for free. Call toll-free (866)898-5723.
The training for law enforcement and broadcasters must provide instruction on all aspects of the state’s plan, including its activation criteria and broadcasting procedures.
- BCI will provide training to law enforcement agencies agencies and communications centers on criteria and activation procedures.
- Each law enforcement agency will provide training about issues involving call prioritization, phone bank, tip sheet, lead sheet and question lead sheet.
- The AG will provide an AMBER Alert Coordinator to coordinate, direct and oversee Utah’s AMBER Alert Plan.
- The AMBER Alert Coordinator will keep current on training and other resources to assist all members of the team to make sure the plan is working effectively.
- The AMBER Alert Coordinator will help write and produce protocols and training materials.
- The AMBER Alert Coordinator will keep current information about the Utah AMBER Alert Plan at www.amberalert.utah.gov.
- The AG has created a special AMBER Alert fund to accept tax-deductible donations to pay for materials and training. The AMBER Alert Coordinator will work with AMBER Alert partners to raise money for the fund.
- The AMBER Alert Coordinator will also work with UBA to train broadcasters on the AMBER Alert Plan.
The AMBER Alert Coordinator will work with UBA to make sure citizens of Utah are familiar with the AMBER Alert Plan in order to enhance its success in the safe recovery of abducted children. The public information campaign will let the public know how the AMBER Alert Plan works and how to help in the safe recovery an abducted child. A public information campaign will include public service announcements, public awareness events and written materials.
The Utah AMBER Alert Advisory Committee will also seek out businesses and private individuals to help in the implementation of the Utah AMBER Alert Plan. Employers will be encouraged to notify all of their employees of AMBER Alerts. Private businesses with electronic signs, Internet providers, web sites and other means to communicate with the public will be encouraged to offer AMBER Alert notifications.
The Utah AMBER Alert Plan Steering Committee will convene when needed to revise the AMBER Alert Plan. The steering committee includes:
- Utah AMBER Alert Coordinator
- Missing Person Clearinghouse Coordinator
- Utah Broadcaster Representative
- Transportation Representative
- Law Enforcement Representative
- Dispatcher Representative
Members of the steering committee will also belong to the Utah AMBER Alert Advisory Committee. The advisory committee also includes other AMBER Alert partners, child safety advocates and interested individuals.
The advisory committee will review every AMBER Alert activation with the initiating law enforcement agency. The committee's review will focus upon the circumstances of the activation and identify and correct any problems with implementation of the plan. The AMBER Alert Coordinator will collect information from the initiating agency and the Utah AMBER Alert Advisory Committee and set up a review after each AMBER Alert. The coordinator will then work with everyone involved to initiate any changes to make the plan more effective. Modification of the Utah AMBER Alert Plan shall be made only by consent of the majority of the steering committee.
The Utah AMBER Alert Plan will be tested on January 13 and August 26 each year to make sure the system is working effectively and in a timely manner.
The AMBER Alert does not preclude any in-house procedures, policies or practices used by each law enforcement agency. The Utah AMBER Alert Plan is not intended to and does not empower members of the public to act as police officers or to take police action. The role of the public is to provide law enforcement with information to assist officers in the recovery of the child.