The truth about Amber Alerts and the shutdown - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

The truth about Amber Alerts and the shutdown

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Hundreds of children have been saved by Amber Alerts, and that's why many people were outraged when they thought the government shutdown had forced the closure of the notification system.

A Michigan mother was inconsolable after her 2 1/2-year-old daughter went missing Tuesday. An amber alert was issued, and by early Wednesday afternoon Amber Rose Smith was reunited with her parents.

This case was one of several Amber Alerts issued around the country during the federal government's ongoing shutdown, including an alert for a missing 2-year-old girl in Kentucky and another one for a kidnapped 14-year-old girl in Ohio, both of whom have been found safe.

"Amber Alert service never ceased. There was never any sort of gap in operation whatsoever," FBI spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said.

The Amber Alert is a national alert system designed to quickly get the word out on missing kids through everything from freeway signs and billboards to the internet and text message alerts. However, the decision to issue these alerts are made at the state or local level, as was the case with missing teen Hannah Anderson here in San Diego this past August.

"It's just a fast way to get information out nationally as soon as possible," Caldwell said.

While the US Department of Justice's Amber Alert website, which provides information to state and local authorities about the program, was down for a few days, it was reactivated Monday morning in response to critics who falsely assumed the Amber Alert system itself had ceased operations.

"That is not the case whatsoever. The Amber Alert system was never shut down," Caldwell said.

The Justice Department brought in a furloughed employee to re-open the site on Monday to help combat the public perception that the Amber Alert program itself was down, and not just the federal website.

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