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Criminal Justice

Early Amber Alert wakeup call helps cops find abducted child

Posted Jul 18, 2013 7:19 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Many New Yorkers were startled when they received an Amber Alert at 4 a.m. on Wednesday on their cellphones.

According to the New York Times, “It was a watershed moment in the intersection of law enforcement and technology: the first mass Amber Alert sent to cellphones in the city since a national wireless emergency alert system was established.”

The alert was for a 7-month-old baby abducted by his mother from a foster agency, the story says. Authorities said the mother had bipolar disorder and a history of violent acts. After broadcast of a license plate, a tip led authorities to the child and his mother on Wednesday afternoon.

Congress established the Wireless Emergency Alerts system in 2006. The network is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which allows the system to be used by several agencies, including the New York State Police. The system has already been used to send weather alerts and to send Amber Alerts in other areas. Since December, about 50 Amber Alerts have been issued on the emergency network.

Many newer cellphones automatically receive the alerts. To turn off the alerts, iPhone users can go to settings, select notifications, and scroll to government alerts. Those who want to opt out on other devices should contact their cellular carrier.

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