How do police decide to issue an AMBER Alert?

Guidelines for issuing AMBER Alerts

DETROIT – America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, otherwise known as an AMBER Alert, has been an effective tool for police to find missing children since 1996.

There has to be more missing children, right? Yes, there are. But not every situation falls under AMBER Alert criteria. Below are some of the guidelines, or recommendations from the government for issuing AMBER Alerts.

- Law enforcement must confirm an abduction prior to issuing an alert.

- Police must determine that child is at risk for serious bodily harm or death before an alert is issued.

- Law enforcement must have enough information to believe that an immediate broadcast to the public will enhance the efforts of police to locate the child and suspect.


Here are the specific circumstances in Michigan that would allow law enforcement to activate the alert system:

An endangered missing person under 17 years of age is reported to law enforcement and one or more of the following circumstances exist;

  • The child suffers from a severe mental or physical disability that greatly impairs the child's ability to care for him/herself.
  • The child is a victim of stranger or acquaintance kidnapping. Stranger kidnapping is defined as a child being taken against his/her will by a stranger. Acquaintance kidnapping is defined as a child being taken against his/her will by an acquaintance of the child or the child's family.
  • The child is in the company of a person who has a confirmed criminal history of child abuse/neglect, sexual assault, domestic assault, a crime involving the victimization of children, or has made statements of intent to harm the missing child, or is suicidal.
  • The child has been abducted by a non-custodial parent whose parental rights have been terminated. 

Amber Alert cannot be activated for a runaway child or a child who is a victim of a parental abduction involved in a civil dispute.



About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.