WASHINGTON – The “eyes and ears” of the road will get an early heads up on any child abduction under a new initiative that will alert nearby truck drivers to the possible crime.
The new AMBER Alert Highway Network will broadcast notifications about missing children to truck drivers within nearby ZIP codes. The drivers will be provided with information about the abducted child, the suspected abductor and any possible vehicle description. AMBER stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.
The AMBER alerts will be broadcast via an on-board wireless communication system already carried by more than 350,000 trucks, according to Norman Ellis, vice president and general manager of QUALCOMM, the California company that makes the communication devices. Companies that use the QUALCOMM equipment can sign up for the free program. More than 30,000 trucks are already participating, and Ellis expects more companies to join soon.
U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen, D-Kensington, backed the plan at a news conference Thursday. “We know from the Amber Alert system, law enforcement needs the eyes and ears of the citizens. And what better group to enlist than the thousands of truckers who are on the road every day, 24 hours a day, morning, noon and night,” said Van Hollen, a member of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus.
The program will assist in broadcasting information as quickly and accurately as possible, an important part of a successful AMBER Alert explained Cpl. Wayne Sheppard, Pennsylvania AMBER Alert coordinator.
The AMBER Alert program was started in Texas in 1997 after the 1996 abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas. The alerts have worked to rescue more than 200 children nationwide. Maryland joined the program in 2002.
A truck driver helped police arrest snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo in October of 2002. Muhammad is scheduled to go on trial soon for the Maryland murders of six people, some of the 10 people slain and three seriously wounded in the pair’s three-week shooting spree.
“It was a trucker, whose good wits, saw the vehicle, the car, of the snipers and called and alerted the police,” Van Hollen said.
Danny Ewell, professional truck driver and member of America’s Road Team, is ready for his colleagues to serve the community again, saying, “We look forward to hearing about the happy returns of missing children.”