The America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) alert was named after Amber Hagerman, who was abducted in 1996 in Texas. | Photo: NCMEC

Illinois State Police are marking the 20th anniversary of Illinois’ first AMBER alert, which is named after a 9-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996.

The Illinois AMBER Alert Task Force said that the first America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) alert broadcast in Illinois took place at 5:35 p.m. on November 26, 2002, in LaSalle.

The AMBER Alert System is named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and later found murdered in 1996 after playing near her home in Arlington, Texas.

In response to community concern, the Texas Association of Radio Managers and law enforcement created the first AMBER Plan. All 50 states have since adopted similar plans.

The goal of the AMBER Alert is to “instantly galvanize” the entire community to assist in the search for and safe return of missing children, state police said.

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The Illinois AMBER Alert Task Force is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, the Illinois Press Association, the Illinois Tollway, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Lottery and the National Weather Service to activate a bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases.

The alerts are broadcast through TV, radio, road signs, cell phones and other data-enabled devices.

The Illinois AMBER Alert System has been used to broadcast 118 critical messages about abducted children since its inception.

State police say the alert has directly resulted in the recovery of 67 children and indirectly for 22 more.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, AMBER alerts have assisted in the successful recovery of more than 1,100 children nationally.

“When a child goes missing, every second counts. That is why the AMBER Alert Program’s greatest tools are the eyes and ears of the public. The proof of the effectiveness of an AMBER Alert Broadcast is in the numbers,” Illinois AMBER Alert Coordinator Craig Burge said.

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“This program is unlike many others because it is a public partnership. Citizens in Illinois can take pride in the fact that they can help each and every time a child is abducted by simply being aware of their surroundings and reporting what they see to law enforcement officials,” Burge said.

“This collaborative effort will continue to provide the basis for the success of AMBER Alert broadcasts for years to come,” he added.