Both the AMBER Alert and Athena Alert help save children’s lives. Both alerts started in Texas and stemmed from tragic events. Yet, the AMBER Alert and Athena Alert accomplish very different things. In this article, we will look at the differences between the two alerts and why we need them both.
The AMBER Alert
The AMBER Alert is named after Amber Rene Hagerman. Amber was just 9 years old when she went missing while riding her bike on a chilly January day in 1996 in Arlington, Texas, a busy suburb between Dallas and Fort Worth. Despite the community’s best efforts to locate her, Amber was found murdered two days later. Her case remains unsolved, but her legacy lives on through the AMBER Alert.
The AMBER Alert is a state-wide alert that is issued when a child is known to have been abducted. The state’s AMBER coordinator can extend the alert to other states if there is reason to believe the child may be taken outside of the state where he or she was kidnapped.
Although it started in Texas, the AMBER Alert has been implemented nationwide, extending across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Indian territories. The alert system is designed to mobilize communities when a child is abducted, broadcasting alerts through various channels, including radio, television, road signs, cell phones, and other data-enabled devices.
The AMBER Alert has saved hundreds of children’s lives, turning a heartbreaking event into a beacon of hope for the families of other missing children.
The Athena Alert
The Athena Alert is named after Athena Presley Monroe Strand. On November 30, 2022, police were alerted that Athena was missing from her father’s driveway in Paradise, Texas – a rural community in Wise County. Because it was not yet known that Athena had been abducted, an AMBER Alert could not be issued. It was not until nearly 24 hours later when law enforcement was able to issue the AMBER Alert – but by then, it was too late.
Tragically, on December 2, 2022, Athena’s body was found nine miles away. She has been kidnapped and murdered by a FedEx driver who had been to her father’s home to deliver what would have been her Christmas present – a box of “You Can Be Anything” Barbies.
That distinction between a child who is missing and a child who is known to have been abducted is an important one. The AMBER Alert has an intentionally high threshold because the alert is issued state-wide.
The Athena Alert was born out of the need for a more immediate alert to be sent to a smaller geographic area – without confirmation of an abduction. In fact, the idea was conceived by Athena’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, in her moment of greatest despair.
An Athena Alert is an immediate and localized alert that can go out as soon as law enforcement knows a child is missing. The threshold for the Athena Alert is only that the head of law enforcement believes it will be beneficial – not confirmation that a child has been abducted. Once activated, the alert can go out in a 100-mile radius or in the county and to adjacent counties. As a localized alert, particularly in a state as big as Texas, the hope is that citizens will pay much closer attention to something that has just happened near them.
The Athena Alert was signed into law in Texas on June 13, 2023. It is expected that other states will follow suit in the years to come.
|Child must have been abducted
|Child is missing and the head of law enforcement believes a local alert should be issued
|Alert is state-wide
|Alert is within 100 mile radius, or in the county and bordering counties, from where the child was last seen