Amber Alert Procedure

Step 1 - Local Law Enforcement Investigates

When a parent or caregiver calls local law enforcement to report their missing child, the law enforcement agency must first investigate the case and determine if the criteria warrant a request for an AMBER Alert. According to North Carolina law, an AMBER Alert can only be issued if all of the following criteria are met:

  • the child is 17 years or younger
  • the child is believed to have been abducted
  • the child was not taken by a parent (unless the child is in danger)
  • the child is not believed to be a runaway or voluntarily missing
  • the abduction was reported to and investigated by a law enforcement agency.

Step 2 - Local Law Enforcement Calls NC Center for Missing Persons

After completing the investigation and determining the case meets the qualifying criteria, law enforcement will call the NC Center for Missing Persons (an agency within the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety) to request an AMBER Alert.

The law enforcement agency must have enough identifying information: such as description of child, abductor and vehicle information. It does no good to issue an AMBER Alert if there is not sufficient information that can be provided to the public to assist with the search. The law enforcement agency will enter the case into the National Crime Information Center to begin tracking the case.

Step 3 - NC Missing Persons Center Issues AMBER Alert

The NC Center for Missing Persons is the only agency that is authorized to issue an AMBER Alert. The NC Missing Persons Center contacts the NC State Highway Patrol with instructions to issue an Emergency Alert System (EAS) message. The EAS message is technically THE AMBER Alert. Through the EAS System, television and radio stations receive the tone signal that indicates an emergency message will follow. (This EAS is the same system that notifies citizens about severe weather warnings.) Descriptive information about the child and abductor will be announced in a pre-recorded message or displayed as a ‘crawl' message across the bottom of the television screen.

The NC Missing Persons Center also:
> contacts NCDOT to activate the electronic message signs on the highways. Signs will include vehicle make, model and license plate with “Abducted Child – Call *HP if seen”
> contacts the NC Education Lottery to activate messages on lottery terminals
> enters information that simultaneously updates the website and notifies appropriate media and other key personnel
> contacts contiguous states if appropriate