Colorado extends Amber Alert to seniors

Colorado law creating the Missing Senior Citizen Alert Program

Colorado has become the first state in the nation to extend the Amber Alert system to include missing senior citizens.

Gov. Bill Owens signed Senate Bill 57 into law last week, allowing participating public and commercial radio and TV broadcasters to issue an alert for a missing senior citizen just as they would for a missing child.

“The Amber Alert program has helped recover hundreds of abducted children nationwide since its inception 10 years ago,” Owens said in a prepared statement. “I believe the same strategy of rapidly disseminating information via the media will help locate missing senior citizens in need of help.”

Introduced earlier this year in the state Senate, the new law states that for the alert to be issued, the senior citizen must be at least 60 years old and suffer from a “verified impaired mental condition.” Law enforcement officials must verify this information and also determine that the person’s disappearance would pose a credible threat to his or her safety and health, according to the new law.

The law also stipulates that the executive director of the state’s public safety department must promulgate rules, which are expected to be finalized in the next few months, to implement the program.

The Amber Alert program was created in 1998 and named for Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and murdered in Texas, the year before. Law enforcement officials follow guidelines to see if a case meets certain criteria before an alert can be broadcast. There are now nearly 130 Amber Alert plans nationwide and in Canada and England. The program is credited with helping locate 256 abducted children, according to information on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Web site.

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