Children’s Safety Now Lies in Our Palms

OLGA RAMAZ
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Parents do the best they can to protect their children from the so-called monsters that live under their bed and even the ones that live in the darkest corners of their closets. But, they especially try to do their best to protect them from the monsters that lurk outside in their neighborhoods, those that come in the form of middle-aged men and women who take pleasure in stealing the innocence of a child in order to satisfy their unforgivable desires.

But what happens when these parents are not around to monitor their every movement and fail to protect them from vicious sex offenders? What happens to this child?

The Amber Alert system has proven to be a useful tool in combating child abductions. An Amber alert is a notification to the general public that confirms the abduction of a child. Some of the information that is released to the public through the Amber alert is the name, description of the missing child and a description of the child’s abductor.

In order to carry on the success of the Amber Alert, this system has now expanded to cell phones, an approach that hopes to steadily decrease kidnapping rates all across the United States.

Currently, people are notified about Amber Alerts through TV, radio, the Internet, and flashing signs on major highways in the areas where the child is believed to be missing.

Through www.wirelessamberalerts.org, one can sign up to receive Amber Alerts via text messages. The service is free of charge and is supported by all major participating mobile phone carriers.

The cell phone users who wish to receive these Amber Alerts on their mobile phones can select up to five zip codes. Text messages will only be sent out when there is an alert in any of these zip codes.

The Amber Alert system dates back to 1997 and was named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl from Arlington, Texas who was kidnapped in 1996 while riding her bicycle in her neighborhood. Hagerman was brutally murdered and was found four days after her disappearance.
Amber has now become an acronym for “America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response.”

The National Center for the Missing and Exploited Children, which is a major collaborator in the expansion of Amber Alerts to cell phones, says that since its beginnings, the Amber Alert system has been responsible for rescuing more than 200 children.

The Amber Alert system works instantly, spurring the local community to aid in the search for the missing child and their abductor. A study by the U.S. Department of Justice says that 74 percent of the children who are kidnapped and later found murdered are killed within the first three hours after being abducted.

Imagine having your life hanging in the balance and knowing that if people decide not to care, those first three hours could be your last. Something needs to be done and the sooner the better.

Fortunately, the Amber Alert not only acts as a method which helps to recover missing children, but it also works as a warning that sends a message of intolerance toward crimes committed against children.
Nowadays, more than half of the population own cell phones. Steve Largent, president of the Cellular Telecomunications and Internet Association says that more than 60 percent of Americans own wireless devices. Whether it is for business purposes or for emergencies, cell phones without a doubt have become handy when faced with difficult situations.

There is no greater emergency than the safety of a child who when abducted, unfortunately turns into a possible rape and/or murder victim.

Sympathy toward inconsolable parents after the loss of their child by the hands of a depraved being is not enough. Anyone can feel some sort of compassion for these families, regardless if one has fathered or given birth to a child.

Children should not have to worry about being victimized by twisted human beings, nor should their families. Their smile, laughter and innocence should not be compromised, much less tainted with blood as they try to hang on and fight for their lives while they wait in vain for the hero’s mommy and daddy tell them about, right before tucking them into bed and kissing them goodnight.

Being involved, no matter how small the effort, is an effort nonetheless. This effort goes beyond just satisfying ones heroic ego, it has the potential to save a life. The ability to do such a thing lies in the palm of our hands, literally.

There is no need for a citizen’s arrest. All this new method is doing is making things easier for the people in the community to be more involved. It asks of us to be more observant of what is going on in our surroundings, and to open up lines of communication with the people in our communities as well.

If one is willing to receive horoscopes, movie listings and sports scores via text messages, what is one more text message that can potentially save a life and is free of charge?

It is time to be more involved in the community, in all aspects, but especially when it comes to children. After all, these children are the future, and if we give up on them now, how will we be able to carry on knowing that we were the difference between their life or their death?