Cell phone user receive automatic, free Amber Alerts - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Cell phone users receive automatic, free Amber Alerts

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

In August 2003, the first AMBER Alert was issued in North Carolina. A baby was kidnapped in Charlotte during a car jacking. The car was later found abandoned. The baby was found unharmed.

To date, more than 595 children have been successfully recovered nationwide thanks to the AMBER Alert system. North Carolina has a 100% recovery or locate rate within their AMBER Alert program since its inception in 2002.

Most cases that qualify for an AMBER Alert resolve quickly with a happy ending. Most, but not all. In October 2010, Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins tearfully announced an AMBER Alert for 10-year-old Zarah Baker was canceled and the investigation turned from a missing persons case to homicide.

It was the death of another little girl, Amber Hagerman, whose kidnapping and murder led to the establishment of a national AMBER (America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert system.

It was Jan. 13, 1996. Hagerman was 9 years old.  She was abducted while riding her bike near her Texas home. Her body was found four days later in a drainage ditch.

Since that time, the AMBER Alert system has evolved from radio broadcast to electronic highway signs. In North Carolina, lottery terminals also display the alerts.

"We always say the more eyes and ears we have once an AMBER Alert has been activated..the better off we are," Nona Best with the NC Missing Persons Center says.

This year, a change to the wireless alert system allows millions of cell phone user to receive free automatic alerts about children missing in the area. Once a program people had to "opt in," the program now come already enabled on most new phones. Users can choose to "opt out."

To learn about the program, click here.

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