When a child is abducted, the first few hours are the most vital. Statistics show that 73% to 99% of all violent crimes occur within the first three to four hours of the abduction.
African Americans make up 33% of all abduction cases and 42% of abductions are by non-family members. Missing children in the African American community is a huge epidemic, but hardly ever make the news and no one has begun to even scratch the surface of this problem.
1.3 million children are reported missing each year and only 800,000 are reported to law enforcement. The Department of Justice reported that about 40,000 -100,000 children are misclassified as runaways.
"African American children are easily classified as runaways because of their communities. Police assume because they live in an area that is affected by gangs, drugs and other problems, they are running away from that element. Even young children the age of six and seven can be classified as runaways." stated Dr. Kai Patterson, the creator of Amber Ready.
When a child is abducted and it is not publicized, there is a low chance of the child or the perpetrator being found because it's not viewed as an issue. Dr. Patterson wants the Black publications to help promote the Amber Ready program and the finding of these missing children. It is also important for communities to pressure law enforcement to find the child.
Dr. Patterson mentioned a young woman who was a straight A student and was abducted. She left her Brooklyn home to go and fill out a job application at Applebee's and was planning to be back soon. When she never came back, her mother, who thought she had to wait 24 hours, called the police and reported her missing.
A report was made and a photo was taken off of the child's MySpace page, but her mother didn't hear from police afterwards. She fought to make sure that the police knew her daughter was abducted and not a runaway. A few days later, police found the young woman's body in a garbage bag, strangled to death. The case transitioned from a missing child to a homicide and the killer has yet to be found.
Statistics show that 59% of abductions by non-family members occur with children the ages of 15-17 years old, while girls make up 65% of all abductions. Older children are at a greater risk than young children to be abducted. In addition, younger children are worth more money in prostitution that older children.
Minority abductions haven't been exposed as widely as they should be and the percentile of predictors will continue to grow. According to the Sex Offender Register database, the number of registered sex offenders is documented as over 44,000. It is vital that parents become aware of the registered sex offenders in the areas that their children frequent and become conscious of becoming Amber Ready.
Many times the system will create a suspect out of the parents because they waited too long to report their child missing. The parents usually take offense to that and get lawyers involved and eventually delay the recovery of their child because of legal issues. In 1990, the National Child Assistance Act was signed into law, allowing parents to report their children missing immediately.
Dr. Patterson created Amber Ready after his secretary's son was abducted. "I noticed how long it took for the police to gather the information and begin investigating the crime," he said. "It was also very hard to galvanize the community, especially within the African American community, for support."
As a systems programmer for Bell Labs, he wrote software technology for cell phones. He thought it would be very beneficial for parents to have their child's information stored and locked into their cell phones.
Amber Ready was made public in February 2008 and parents had to go to certain locations to receive the program manually. This past May, Amber Ready 2 was launched and parents could download the program themselves and update it when needed.
Patterson and Vice President Frank Del Vecchio constructed a 30- city tour to promote Amber Ready. Prior to discussing the programs benefits, they educate the parents about ways to keep their children safe, interact with the children and give tips on Internet safety and more.
"Many times parents punish their children by taking their cell phone as punishment. This can sometimes be the worst thing for a parent to do. When the child leaves the house, you won't have any way to contact them," stated Del Vecchio.
When a parent signs up for the program, a backup copy of the registration is immediately sent to their email with the child's information. The child's height, weight, eye color, medical information and a picture are saved into the program. Parents receive a safety kit, which includes a disk on Internet safety, a backpack, fingerprint kit, DNA kit, dental chart and car charger for their cell phone.
There is a $50 fee for parents to sign up for the Amber Ready Program for two years. If your child happens to go missing, the police can have the information sent directly to the departments email and begin the investigation. For those who are interested, you can visit the website at www.amberready.com or call 1 (866) 60-AMBER.