How effective are AMBER Alerts in child custody cases?

It depends upon what criteria define “effective”. 

More child abductions have been prevented with the Amber Alert system in place than without it, yet it’s impossible to say how many abducted children would have been found in the absence of an Amber Alert message being broadcasted. According to the website Protection1, “In nearly 7 in every 10 AMBER Alert cases, children are successfully reunited with their parents. And in just over 17 percent of cases, the recovery is a direct result of the AMBER Alert. Just under 6 percent of cases end up being unfounded, while just over 5 percent are hoaxes.” (emphasis added) 

A 17% success rate isn’t great (and we don’t know if that 17% figure is inflated). 

Compared to how effective it was designed to be, as opposed to how effective it is in practice, it could be deemed ineffective. Amber Alerts were intended to help find missing children within three hours of abduction because approximately 70% of kidnapped children who are murdered are killed within 3 hours of abduction. Research into how often an Amber Alert was issued within 3 hours showed that occurred less than 37% of the time. 

A 2004 article in FCW (Federal Computer Week) (Amber Alerts crossing state lines), stated that federal DOT officials allocated $400,000 to each state for Amber Alert programs. The February 12, 2003 Federal Register ( reported that the DOT would provide up to seven million dollars to facilitate the inclusion of the Intelligent Transportation Systems into the Amber Plan program. I cannot find how much the Amber Alert system costs currently. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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