Understanding Amber Alerts

Understanding Amber Alerts _ Indy

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare – your child. Missing.

Our sister magazine publication and website – Indy’s Child Magazine – is based in Indiana, where the Indiana State Police have issued two Amber Alerts in the past two days. That is highly unusual for the state of Indiana according to Andre Clark, Program Director for Missing Children and the Amber and Silver Alert programs. Nevertheless, these alerts have put parents on high worry status and heightened anxiety surrounding this terrifying prospect.

With the recent days’ history in mind, we want all of our readers – parents, neighbors, community members, everyone – to be prepared in understanding what an Amber Alert is, why they are issued and what you can do: 
What is an Amber Alert?
  • An Amber Alert is when law enforcement agencies immediately alert the public, typically via television, radio, and now social media, when a “qualifying” child abduction is confirmed.

Statewide text alerts like this one are automatically issued in the event of an Amber Alert.

What is a “qualifying” abduction?
  • A child who is under the age of 18.
  • The child must be believed to be abducted and in serious danger. This determination is made by the local law enforcement agency and then communicated to the State Police.
  • There must be enough descriptive information to communicate to the public, such as a description of the child as well as information about their last known whereabouts, possible abductor, and any vehicles involved.
  • A law enforcement agency must make a request to the State Police to issue an Amber Alert.
How is the public notified?
  • The Federal Communications Commission’s policy is that everyone receives Amber Alerts unless they choose to opt out. Indiana only issues statewide alerts, so unless you have selected not to receive them, all Indiana residents’ phones should have gone off twice in the last few days, according to Clark.
  • Alerts are also communicated out to news agencies, posted on digital roadway signs and highlighted by social media sites like Facebook.
What is the purpose of the Amber Alert?
  • Andre Clark says, “The purpose is to make the public the eyes and ears of law enforcement.”
  • The expectation of the State Police is that if you see the people or vehicle mentioned in the Amber Alert, you will call local law enforcement or 1-888-58AMBER and report the information. “Any lead is a good lead,” said Clark.
Understanding Amber Alerts _ Indy's Child

Here, an Amber Alert notification is immediately broadcast on Facebook in order to notify all local users.

Why do Amber Alerts work?
  • According to Andre Clark, “The Amber Alert program is one of the most effective programs ever designed by the Federal government.” Why? Because the public is always concerned about the wellbeing of children.
  • Time equates to distance, Clark explained, so the immediacy of the Amber Alert is crucial for its success.
What is the role of the State Police?
  • The State Police issues the Amber Alert within one hour of an agency providing them the information.
  • They also offer assistance and support with the investigation – including additional manpower – upon the request of the requesting agency.
  • They cooperate with other agencies such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Why should you exercise caution but NOT panic?
  • Amber Alerts are not frequent in Indiana.
  • This year, there have been seven requests and only three activations {two in the last several days}.
  • “Indiana as a whole does not have a problem with stranger abductions,” Clark said. Almost always, abductions are committed by a non-custodial parent or relative.
  • It is difficult to know where your child is 24/7, but try your best to know their whereabouts and to teach them basic safety practices, Clark said.


Andre Clark, Program Director 1 with the State Police, Missing Children and Amber and Silver Alerts


Megan BohrerBusy is a way of life for Megan Bohrer, a working mother of two kids with a surprise baby on the way. A recent transplant to the Midwest, Megan and her young family are enjoying discovering everything the Circle City has to offer.

As a social worker by day, Megan actively builds community relationships and helps families in need with her work for the Children’s Bureau. Megan also works as the Editorial Director for theCityMoms, the premier social events and support community for Indy moms. When her kids are in bed, Megan also writes for theCityMoms, Indy’s Child magazine, and works on the next great American novel, one chapter at a time.

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