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Legislation being proposed for nationwide Amber Alert system

Despite recent successes across the country with different states' Amber Alert systems, so far only 15 states have them available to find abducted or missing children. That may change. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have jointly proposed legislation to create a national network - - "The Trace and Recover America's Children (TRAC) Act."

As the system spreads to new states, so does the potential for glitches and false alarms. Supporters worry that without strict guidelines, Amber Alerts could be viewed as the boy crying wolf. In addition, many police and sheriff's departments don't have the training or manpower to participate, so the proposed legislation aims at providing federal money for training law enforcement agencies and provide grants to buy equipment and train authorities.

From Hutchison's website: "The Trace and Recover America's Children (TRAC) Act, which will be introduced by Senator Hutchison when Congress reconvenes in September, provides for a nationwide AMBER Alert network. Local and state law enforcement can call incidents of missing and abducted children into the network for wider dissemination. The national AMBER Alert network would include highway signage and broadcast media to notify the public of a missing child or a child abduction. The Hutchison bill would also give the AMBER network access to DNA and biographical information kept by the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) to help identify and locate potential suspects in child abduction cases. The bill also provides federal grants to states for their communications networks dedicated to the recovery of lost or abducted children. Currently, only 14 states and 29 localities in the country have AMBER Alert plans in place. In March, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children lauded the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) adoption of a new Child Abduction Emergency Code within the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The EAS is best known for alerting communities to severe weather warnings."

The system was first implemented in Arlington, TX, after the '96 abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman. Nationwide, the alerts are credited with helping rescue at least 26 children since '96, most in the past two years as more state and local systems have come online.

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