Maui News

Bill to Expand AMBER Alert Advances in US Senate

December 18, 2018, 11:39 AM HST
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Maile Amber Alert. Maui Now.

The US Senate unanimously passed legislation authored by US Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that will expand the AMBER Alert system to include all US territories.

The national AMBER Alert network distributes alerts on highway billboards, TVs, radio, and cellular phones to mobilize the public when a child is missing or abducted. It has helped rescue more than 900 children to date.

“AMBER Alerts have helped save hundreds of children. There’s no good reason for US territories to be excluded from this system,” Senator Schatz said. “With this bill now one step closer to becoming law, we can help children and their families quickly end the nightmare that is child abduction.”

“The AMBER Alert system has saved hundreds of children over the past 15 years, which is why it’s so important that we expand access to this essential service to all US territories,” Senator Murkowski said. “I am hopeful that the House of Representatives will pass this bipartisan bill quickly and send it to the president for his signature.”

First established in 2003, the original legislation authorizing the program did not include grant funding to help all US territories implement the system. In addition to all 50 states, only the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were eligible for grant funding.

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The Schatz-Murkowski legislation will direct the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Transportation to provide federal grant funding to help all US territories implement the AMBER Alert program on a voluntary basis. Specifically, it will:

  • Reauthorize DOJ’s AMBER Alert grant program and make all five US territories – American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands – eligible for funding;
  • Integrate territorial law enforcement agencies into the national AMBER Alert system, including state or regional AMBER Alert communication plans;
  • Direct the DOJ’s AMBER Alert coordinator to work with the Department of Homeland Security; and
  • Authorize DOT to provide grants for AMBER Alert signs along public roadways and other major transportation routes, including airports, maritime ports, border crossings/checkpoints, and ports of exit from US territories.
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The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass before the end of the year.

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