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  • Fear, Hype, and Stereotypes: Dangers of Overselling the Amber Alert Program

    The issue of child safety must not be taken lightly, and the intentions of the AMBER Alert program are noble, yet the program remains woefully ineffective. The danger in overselling the AMBER program is threefold. First, as a byproduct of Crime Control Theater, parents are mistakenly allowed to assume that the government is taking care of the problem of child abduction, and, in the event of a stranger abducting their child, that an AMBER Alert will quickly and effortlessly return their child unharmed. Secondly, through the construction and maintenance of crime myths, public discourse is warped in such a way as to obfuscate the very real issue of familial abductions that constitute the vast majority of child kidnappings. Finally, by perpetuating the stereotype of strangers as a constant threat to children’s wellbeing and safety, programs such as AMBER Alert are unintentionally contributing to a heightened climate of fear, leading the American public to believe that danger is ever-present, which encourages paranoia, disillusionment, and a willful lack of faith in society as a whole. Preventing the overselling of programs like AMBER Alert is essential if society wishes to engage in effective and reasonable crime control; attempting to legitimize these programs with claims that exaggerate their purported efficacy can only hinder progress, and will ultimately fail to serve the interests of justice. Accountability from elected officials must be demanded by the American people if the undeniable truth surrounding the nature of child abductions is ever going to be understood and addressed.