Tennessee's AMBER Alert program is a cooperative effort between the state's law enforcement community, media broadcasting agencies and the public in locating abducted children. It provides the public with immediate and up-to-date information about a child abduction via widespread media broadcasts and solicits the public's help in the safe and swift return of the child. The Tennessee’s AMBER Alert program is modeled after the nationwide AMBER plan, which was developed in 1996 after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted and brutally murdered near her home in Arlington, Texas. Under the AMBER Alert concept, the state's law enforcement community employs the assistance of local radio and television stations to interrupt normal programming and request public assistance in locating children who have just been abducted. Emergency bulletins and photographs of the missing child are relayed from law enforcement agencies to the media through the Emergency Alert System and Locater Poster E-mail system. AMBER Alerts are issued through the TBI’s Criminal Intelligence Unit.
TBI is the Tennessee Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children and considers the disappearance of a minor child to be an investigative priority whether it is a result of unknown circumstances, a runaway incident or a non-family abduction. In each of these scenarios, TBI supervisors within the Criminal Intelligence Unit take into consideration the specific case circumstances and make decisions about the proper level of manpower and resources needed to bring the situation to a successful conclusion. While each of these incidents has the potential for harm to the child, the non-family abduction is the situation that will most likely result in the injury, sexual assault and/or death of the child.
When a non-family member abducts a child, it is the sheriff or police department's policy to increase the chance for the safe return of the child and the apprehension of the suspect. This policy includes an aggressive investigation, conducted in a timely manner and adequately staffed with manpower and resources. This policy is the AMBER Alert Protocol.
This plan establishes procedures to investigate a child's abduction. It outlines the department's response to increase the chance for the safe return of the child and the apprehension of the suspect. The first few hours of the investigation of a child abduction may determine whether the eventual outcome is successful or not. Experience has shown that in cases where children have been victims of stranger abductions, there exists a "window of opportunity" lasting only a few hours in which police are likely to successfully recover the child unharmed. To capitalize on this opportunity, it is imperative that the investigation be "front loaded" with as much intense investigative efforts and resources as possible.
The reason for stranger abductions are many and varied. The motivation involved may be related to sexual gratification, narcotics, revenge or money. It is crucial that all investigative units in the department research their respective activities and files to determine if any connection or motive can be established related to the child's disappearance.
TBI will issue an AMBER Alert when requested by a law enforcement agency when the following conditions are met:
1) Accurate information on at least one of the following:
1) Description of child
2) Description of suspect
3) Description of vehicle
2) Child must be 17 years of age or younger
3) A belief that the child is in imminent danger of bodily injury or death.