Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=129339
Story Retrieval Date: 5/22/2013 8:42:57 AM CST
Time plays an important factor in child abduction cases. When children are kidnapped, 73 percent of all crimes are committed within the first three hours, according to the center. Ninety-nine percent occur within the first four hours of abduction.
“Savvy predators know that they have a time window when they exploit a child. And we want that window to go away,” said Kai Patterson.
Patterson himself was nearly a victim of abduction at the age of 9 while walking near his home. “I walked over to him and he immediately jumped,” Patterson said. “I’d never felt a force grab me, in my life, that hard. He had no good will intended.”
Because there was snow on the ground, Patterson got lucky. “I immediately ducked and tried to wiggle away from him and we both fell. And when we fell I was able to jump up and run away.”
Patterson said his experience eventually led him to invent AMBER Ready, a new cell phone application that could reduce the time between a child going missing and parents alerting local authorities.
The AMBER Ready system lets parents store secure digital profiles of their children on their wireless phones. In the event of an abduction or sudden disappearance, pictures and vital information can be retrieved and distributed by police. Proponents of the system say law enforcement needs every second of valuable search time.
“I’ve had cases where we didn’t have a photograph and have something to disseminate on the street until an hour, hour and a half later,” said Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “The statistics show that by that time, sometimes it can be too late.”
Among the system’s supporters is Lucita Petro-Nixon, mother of Chanel Petro-Nixon, who was abducted in 2006 at the age of 16 while walking near her home in Brooklyn, N.Y. Chanel’s remains were found in a trash bag four days after her disappearance. She had been strangled to death.
Petro-Nixon, who mistakenly thought she had to wait a full 24 hours before reporting her daughter missing, said she hopes the AMBER Ready call center, which supplements the cell phone technology, will help to answer questions from scared, confused parents. “Let’s not make what happened to Chanel happen to another child,” Petro-Nixon said. “Let’s work together to save one child at a time.”
AMBER Ready is not related to the AMBER alert system, which is run by the U.S. Department of Justice. AMBER stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was originally named for Amber Hagerman. The nine-year old Texas girl was found dead after being abducted while riding her bike in 1996.
AMBER Alerts are issued only when the child in question is 17 years of age or younger, the child is at risk of serious injury or death, the abduction has been confirmed by law enforcement and there are sufficient details about the captured, captor or captor’s vehicle to release an alert. AMBER Ready seeks to help parents focus on reporting relevant details in the initial stages of a crime. Families can store information for up to nine children, for $50 every two years.