Photo via Tony Webster

Photo via Tony Webster

An AMBER Alert was issued at 2am on the morning on February 24th in response to the abduction of 3-year-old Elinor Trotter by her armed and potentially dangerous father.

Through the use of the alerting system, in addition to efforts of local police and community helpers, Trotter was recovered without harm. But, the real story isn’t about her safe return – it’s about the behavior of the hundreds of social media users who took to Twitter and Facebook to complain about being “rudely awakened” by the lifesaving system.


The Shock of it All


The AMBER Alert system has saved the lives of over 700 children since it’s inception. But it seems that is still not enough value for some. Twitter was riddled with shocking responses from people that had been awaked by the call to help the endangered Trotter.


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Fortunately, these sentiments were not shared by the majority. Still, their mere presence on social media called attention to the public impression of the AMBER Alert system. Major news media icons like Philadelphia WXPN host Robert Drake were more than happy to defend the system, which is defaulted to automatically ping cell phone users who have not opted out.


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AMBER Alert: An Effective and Valuable Nuisance


In truth, the AMBER Alert system has been hailed as one of the most successful elements of the often-criticized 2002 Bush campaign. It was during this time that President Bush held the first-ever White House Conference on Missing, Exploited, and Runaway Children. President Bush called for the appointment of an official AMBER Alert Coordinator, which led to an impressive 900% increase in children recovered through the program after that point.


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And, as the internet and mobile phones have made information easier to access, the AMBER Alert system has become even more effective. Cell phones are programmed to “opt in” to the alerting system by default. Considering that there are a projected 164 million smart phones in the U.S. alone, that is a huge resource for police officers, private investigators, and family members in quickly spreading information about a missing child.


AMBER Alert Social: The Future of Finding Missing Persons


Social media has also played a huge role in finding missing persons, especially in regards to the AMBER alert program. Those individuals who “like” AMBER Alerts on Facebook (over 308,000 people as of Feb. 2015) will see the most recent alerts on their news feeds.


There is also a way to follow @AMBERAlert on Twitter to get the same information, but the response has not been as positive. As in the Trotter case, it seems that some Twitter users are less inclined to see the social media as a tool for helping solve missing persons cases, and more inclined to see it as a place to vent frustration. Luckily, those individuals are the minority.


It’s Never Too Late (Or Too Early) To Help Save a Life


Although the world might seem as though it is becoming more selfish and cynical, there are still good people who understand the value of private investigation and missing persons tools like the AMBER Alert system. The surprising outrage at the early AMBER Alert wakeup call inspired users like Robert Drake, @mjvanesco and @LAschafer3 to educate others about the true value of the AMBER Alert system – saving lives no matter how inconvenient it might be.