We had an interesting discussion pertaining to our AMBER Alert system in a public safety committee meeting the other day and I'd like to bounce around some ideas with you.
First, here's some background: There have been 23 AMBER Alert activations in Minnesota since the program began in 2002. All of them resulted in successful recoveries! But I believe there's still room for improvement, especially if we take advantage of technology that has evolved over the last decade since AMBER Alert was born.
Texting, for example, could be a fantastic tool to spread word instantaneously. We already can sign up to receive AMBER Alerts texts, but the problem is people must contact their carrier to be put on the list (it's free). I've been asking around and many people aren't aware this option even exists.
What do you think is the best approach to boosting participation? Is it a simple matter of advertising this feature via public-service ads? I am about the last person interested in telling businesses how to operate, but should we have our phone companies automatically send AMBER Alert texts when they are issued? It would be similar to the way they send billing information. Historically, we'd only receive a couple per year, so it shouldn't raise havoc with our inboxes and we could have an opt-out provision for folks who do not want to participate.
AMBER Alert also is currently available via Facebook and Twitter but, again, participation is far too low. There are 2,241 AMBER users on Facebook and 22,266 Twitter followers.
I know we can do more to improve the way AMBER Alert information is distributed, it just comes down to determining the best approach(es). I would love to hear your thoughts on this, so please take a moment to send them my way. Your ideas could find their way into legislation and make our state a safer place.