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Officer: Alert program can work

A state trooper outlined the merits of the child abduction alert program to members of a local neighborhood watch group.

A state trooper outlined the merits of the child abduction alert program to members of a local neighborhood watch group.

December 13, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - Amber Alert has come to Pennsylvania.

Ed Asbury, a Pennsylvania state trooper assigned to the Chambersburg barrack, is making the rounds of Franklin County clubs and organizations explaining the child abduction alert program named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl from Arlington, Texas, who was abducted and killed in 1996.

The nationwide project is a fast-response program in which police enlist the aid of other agencies, including state transportation departments and the media, to get the word out immediately in cases involving the abduction of children.

In such cases, 40 percent of the time a young victim is killed by the abductor even before the child is reported missing, Asbury said.

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"Forty-four are killed within the first hour of their abduction and 74 percent within three hours," Asbury told about 20 residents in the North Guilford Neighborhood Watch program at a presentation at St. John United Church of Christ on Lincoln Way East.

He said there were six cases of child abduction and murder in Pennsylvania between 1999 and 2001. None was from Franklin County.

Typical victims are white females with an average age of 14 from middle-class families, Asbury said. A typical abductor is a white male around 27 years old who is socially inept and has a criminal history, Asbury said.

His act is calculated and planned. "He's doing it for a reason," Asbury said.

An Amber Alert is activated as soon as an investigating officer verifies from initial interviews that there was in fact an abduction by a non-family member.

Area radio and television stations are notified and given a description of the victim along with those of the suspect and his vehicle.

Asbury said PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission are also notified so they can put the information on flashing highway message boards.

The result is that many people can be on the lookout for the vehicle and the child, he said.

So far, according to the Amber Alert Web site, 19 children have been safely recovered from their abductors because of the program.

State Police Cpl. H. Wayne Sheppard and Trooper Tony Manetta in Harrisburg run the program in Pennsylvania. Both used to work in the Chambersburg barrack.

Tom Bailey, coordinator of the nearly 400-home North Guilford Neighborhood Watch Program, said he sets up speaking programs like Asbury's to keep his neighbors informed about the potential for crimes in the neighborhood.

He said he has helped to organize more than 10 neighborhood watch programs in Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

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