- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

It will be 13 years this month since Patty Wetterling last saw her son Jacob, who was kidnapped off a rural Minnesota road in front of his brother and a friend.
"We're still searching for you and we will never quit until we know who did this, what happened and where you are," she has written to Jacob, who was 11 when he was taken by a masked gunman.
"There's a man out there who steals kids. He's got mine," Mrs. Wetterling told 600 law-enforcement officials, child advocates and families at the White House Conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children, held yesterday in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
"When a child's life or liberty or innocence is taken, it is a terrible, terrible loss, and those responsible have committed a terrible crime," said President Bush, who attended the conference with first lady Laura Bush.
"Our society has a duty, a solemn duty, to shield children from exploitation and danger," said Mr. Bush. "We need to send a clear message: If you prey on our children, there will be serious, severe consequences."
The president said that the Justice Department will now designate a coordinator to help create a national America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) system to speed information to the public about children who have been kidnapped and are in peril.
The system is named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and killed in Arlington, Texas, in 1996. Family members and neighbors later besieged local media and law enforcement with calls to issue alerts to prevent such crimes.
Texas lawmakers swiftly created an Amber Alert Network, and today, there are 66 local, regional or state AMBER plans, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Locally, the District and surrounding areas are part of a regional AMBER plan. Maryland has a statewide AMBER Alert, and Virginia has systems in place for Richmond, Roanoke and Spotsylvania County, the latter due to the kidnapping-murders of Sofia Silva and sisters Kristin and Kati Lisk.
Last summer, the nation witnessed the power of California's Amber Network after two teenage girls were kidnapped from a lovers' lane. Within hours, motorists were alerted by roadside billboards about a suspect vehicle, and a tip led police to the girls, even as their kidnapper was preparing to murder them, authorities said.
At least 32 children have been recovered with assistance from AMBER plans since 1996, the NCMEC said.
Mr. Bush yesterday praised the Senate for passing legislation to provide $25 million for a national AMBER network and urged the House to do the same. In the meantime, he said, $10 million in federal funds will be allocated for AMBER training and education programs and to encourage the use of highway message boards.
According to the NCMEC, around 100 "stranger abductions" are reported in the United States each year, of which 40 percent end in the death of the children.
Another 200,000 children are abducted each year by family members often a noncustodial parent and 58,000 children are taken by non-family members, usually in connection with a crime.
In addition, an estimated 1.3 million children hit the streets each day as homeless runaways or "throwaways."

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