Washington State’s Oldest Missing Child Center Salutes New Amber Alert System

News Release For Immediate Release
October 15, 2002

Everett, Washington – Within the past few days, two extremely significant events have advanced the cause for missing children and their families. The first took place October 2nd at the first ever White House Conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children. The other was the activation of the Amber Alert system in Washington State.

Commenting on the Washington State launching of the Amber Alert, Michael Gibson, president of Everett based OPERATION LOOKOUTâ: National Center for Missing Youth, Washington’s oldest missing child center, said, “It may well be the best thing that has happened for stranger abducted children since I have been involved with the missing children issue for the past eighteen years.”

Gibson added, ”The Amber Alert system has been available for sometime on a local basis in several states. It is a significant tool in the search for children who have been abducted by Strangers or non-family members. This system will assist Operation Lookout like other available efforts that help locate missing children. And in fact, the Amber Alert will rival the Internet for getting information about the child and abductor to the people who can best use it: individuals within the local communities and states. I should also state that it was encouraging to learn that AOL would also participate in the AMBER Alert Project.”

Additionally, as an invited guest of the White House, Mr. Gibson attended the first White House Conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children. The recent, all day meeting was also attended by members of the President’s Cabinet; federal, state and local officials; law enforcement, corporate leaders; citizen experts, parents of victim children; and other leaders involved in the cause of missing, exploited and runaway children.

Of the White House conference, Mr. Gibson concluded, “This is the first time I am aware of Cabinet Members becoming involved in this very important issue. Remarks made at the conference by President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other Cabinet members, clearly reflected that this administration is taking strong measures to ensure that the issue of missing children doesn’t fall behind the headlines. They urged all citizens and communities to become involved in supporting the safety of America’s innocent children.”

President George Bush expounded, “This White House Conference on Missing and Exploited and Runaway Children is important for America… This is the beginning of a refocused effort at the federal level to help save people’s lives. This is an attempt — more than an attempt — this is the beginning of a successful strategy implemented at all levels of government and all parts of our society to recognize a real threat and to deal with it, to recognize there are some so evil in our society that they’re willing to harm our most precious and most vulnerable citizens; and to be prepared to respond quickly when that happens; to help people prevent it from happening in the first place; to make it clear, if you do it and we catch you, there’s going to be serious consequences for you.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell added his thoughts, “It is hard in my mind to think of an issue that speaks more directly to our values as a nation, than the way we treat our children¾our children¾how we protect them from the world’s injustices and dangers and what we do when we see children who are at risk, who are in pain, who are in desperate need. Do we turn away? Can we avert our eyes?”

Of the enormous display of missing children photos behind the podium, Powell commented, “ I kept looking at these pictures from an angle, looking at them as a father, looking at them as a grandfather, looking at them and wondering what would be going through my mind and my heart and my soul if one of these kids was my child, or my grandchild, or someone I loved¾and I didn’t know where that child was, and I didn’t know how that child was being dealt with or how that child might be abused.”

In an August Presidential Action Fact Sheet, the White House states, “Each year, more than 58,000 children in the United States are abducted by non-family members… More than 200,000 children are abducted by family members who are seeking to interfere with a parent’s custodial rights… In the most dangerous type of abduction – fully 40 percent of children are killed.”

Since 1984, Operation Lookout has helped nearly 12,000 children and, overall, 82 percent of the cases have been resolved. Of that recovery rate, Gibson concludes, “That is still simply not good enough.” Operation Lookout provides investigative services always without charge to the victim families.

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