In a move that has concerned citizens in an uproar, the Amber Alert website, the national missing-child warning program, has been closed due to the recent partial Government shutdown.
Users navigating to www.amberalert.gov are being met with a Department of Justice seal and the following message: “Due to lack of funding, the website is now closed.” A quick check on social media websites confirm what we already know. Americans are losing their collective minds over this information, and rightfully so.
AMBER is officially an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, but was named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas, in 1996. According to the description on the U.S. Dept. of Justice website:
The AMBER Alert™ Program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child.
The website includes messages broadcast through the Emergency Alert System. Some states have included text messages, highway signs and Facebook pages. The fact that it has become yet another victim in the week long partial shutdown is a pity. Social media reaction has been overwhelmingly negative, with some people calling the decision “ridiculous” and other condemning Obama for the decision.
Facebook commenter Alicia Claytor Byars had this to say regarding the shutdown on the Amber Alert Facebook page: “Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” site is still up, though. Glad the President thinks his wife’s little campaign is more important than a missing child.” Her sentiments undoubtedly echo many people’s thoughts.
But this doesn’t mean that the Amber Alert system is shut down in its entirety. Although the government’s site is now closed, internet users can access the same information through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children atMissingKids.com. The site offers updates and allows users to sign up for notifications. .The program is triggered by local and state law enforcement and they issue media alerts. Research has shown that most publicity for an Amber Alert is broadcast by local radio and TV.
So let’s look at some of the websites that currently are up and running. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign is up, as is the United States Environmental Protection Agency, United States Department of Justice and the Office of Personnel Management. All apparently deemed more important than the Amber Alert site. Really?
With just 17 percent of the government shut down and the announcement this past Friday that the Obama administration has allowed union representatives to return to work one can’t help but question the importance of shutting down a website that is used to help locate missing children. How much does it cost to keep a website up and running? If you ask any parent of a missing child they will tell you that the information itself is priceless. The government shutdown has closed the Amber Alert website, but has left other, much less important websites up and running. Where are the government’s priorities when a website for missing children gets closed down, and why is that website not considered to be essential?
By: Mary Kay Love (Op-ed)