The Hiller Instinct: Amber Alerts
July 27, Boston: A seven year old girl is kidnapped by her father....
July 30, Lynn: Four children are abducted from an apartment after a murder....
And there could have been a second that day... in Chicopee. But before the alert could be issued, the child was in New York.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children-which tracks Amber Alerts-says they're decreasing nation-wide... by more than 15 percent from 2005 to 2007. But, in Massachusetts, they're up.
There have already been four here so far in 2008... more than the number for the entire year in 2005, 2006, or 2007.
State police call the increase "cyclical" and "a coincidence." But the Center is concerned about the impact of too many alerts.
"Those Amber coordinators have been very, very careful and diligent in safeguarding the overuse and abuse of the system because we're afraid of the public becoming desensitized," says Bob Hoever of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
And what would that mean?
"What we typically call it is the Car Alarm Syndrome. After a while when people hear a car alarm going off they don't even pay attention and that's what we don't want to happen," Hoever says.
It doesn't sound like that's happening here:
"I'm so glad that they do it, especially being the mother of two small children," says one woman.
"A child is missing so I'm assuming that's the emergency. That's the whole point of it," another adds.
"I don't think I would be desensitized to it ever," says another.
According to the state police, Amber Alerts are virtually free... since all authorities involved are already on duty, and no overtime is spent on after-hours alerts.
But the rewards are priceless: to date, all 22 children named in Massachusetts Amber Alerts have been rescued. Nationally, 407 children have been safely recovered since 1966.
Amber Alerts work because they bring government and citizens together-as a team-making everyone more effective. It sounds so simple... but I'd bet you can't name many other government programs that do it.
I'm Andy Hiller, and that's my instinct.
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