SEATTLE – A statewide Amber Alert system is up and running in
Washington for the first time, Gov. Gary Locke said Wednesday.
The next time a child is kidnapped anywhere in Washington, alerts
will go out on radio, television and highway signs across the state. So
far, Washington has relied on a regional system – and some areas have no
formal system for alerting the public to a kidnapping.
“A child abducted in Seattle could end up within hours in Yakima,
Vancouver or Bellingham,” Locke said, explaining why a statewide system
will help. “The first few hours following an abduction are critical.”
State Patrol Chief Ronal Serpas says with the new system, it could
take as little as 30 minutes between the first 911 call and the first
statewide broadcast. According to a 1997 survey, three-quarters of
abducted children who were murdered were killed within three hours.
“It’s a great leg up, there’s no question,” Serpas said.
Amber alerts began in Arlington, Texas, after the 1996 abduction
and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman. Law enforcement agencies send the alerts to radio and television stations with descriptions of the
missing children, their abductors and other information. They also are
broadcast on electronic highway signs.
Locke said the system will use existing resources and won’t require