AMBER's History and Legislation

The first child abduction in the United States  

On March 1, 1932, an unknown person kidnapped Charles Lindbergh's son, aged 20 months, from their residence in Hopewell, New Jersey. 

Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., had been sleeping since 7:30 pm, and was discovered missing at 10:00 pm. Only two months prior, the senior Lindbergh had played a prank on the household where he pretended the child was kidnapped. This time however, the threat was real, and a ransom note was discovered on the windowsill of the nursery. 

The Lindbergh's case became the catalyst for creation of the first federal kidnapping law in the United States, also known as the “Lindbergh Law,” which made kidnapping a federal offense. 

To date, the body of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. has never been positively identified by forensic measures, thus the child case remains unsolved. 

Missing Children's Day 
Each year, the NC Center for Missing Persons staff sponsor Missing Children's Day on May 25 to commemorate all missing children and celebrate those who have been located. The date marks the anniversary of the 1979 abduction of six-year-old Etan Patz from Lower Manhattan, New York. Etan was the first child to be pictured on the back of a milk carton. His case remains unsolved; Etan is still categorized as missing. 

Missing Children's Assistance Act
John Walsh, best known as the host of America's Most Wanted, led the effort to enact federal legislation to assist in missing child investigations. The 1981 abduction and subsequent murder of his six-year-old son, Adam, became the catalyst which focused the nation's attention on a previously unrecognized problem. 

On July 27, 1981 Adam and his mother were shopping at a department store about a mile from their house. His mother let him play a video game while she shopped in another section of the store about 75 feet away. When she returned less than 10 minutes later, she was alarmed to find that Adam was not there. After looking on her own for two hours, someone called the local police. Sixteen days after Adam disappeared his body was found an identified. 

In response to the increased awareness surrounding Adam's case, Congress passed the Missing Children's Assistance Act in 1984. The legislation mandated the formation of a national clearinghouse, thus creating the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In addition, the law required the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to create a national toll free hotline to receive reports of sightings of missing children and to assist in reuniting the children with their family. It also called for the department to monitor contracts and grants to public and private non-profit agencies to help prevent, locate and recover missing children and research the causes of missing children.

The National Child Search Assistance Act 
The National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 elevated child protection to a higher standard by requiring all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to report cases of missing children younger than age 18 to the National Crime Information Center. A later amendment to the law prohibited agencies from establishing a waiting period before accepting a missing child report and extended the age limit under the Child Search Assistance Act to age 21. The amendment is referred to as “Suzanne's Law” for Suzanne Lyall, a student at State University of New York at Albany, who has been missing since 1998. Prior to the enactment of Suzanne's Law, police were only mandated to report missing persons under the age of eighteen.

North Carolina's Efforts
With the national spotlight on missing and abducted children, in 1984 Governor Jim Hunt established a task force to examine the problem within North Carolina. Their recommendations led to the creation of the North Carolina Center for Missing Children and Child Victimization. Housed within the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, it was one of the first four such agencies established in the country. 

Following the first year of operation, with fewer than 200 children reported as missing, revised legislation expanded the Center's responsibilities to include all missing persons regardless of age. With this revision, the Center evolved into the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons, whose staff continually strives to meet the challenges of an ever-changing problem.

On May 25, 2006, Missing Children's Day was permanently commemorated by the U.S. Postal Service with the issuance of the AMBER Alert Stamp.