CT and Tennessee plan to display 'Amber Alerts' on highway signs

| 8/9/2002

Officials in Connecticut and Tennessee announced plans this week to join the growing list of states using electronic highway signs to flash emergency alerts to drivers when a stranger abducts a child in the state.

After seeing the success of a similar approach in California last week, both states committed to the project. The use of highway signs has been credited with saving two abducted teens north of Los Angeles. Drivers who saw the warnings recognized the kidnapper's vehicle and notified police, who rescued the girls from a remote desert area as their abductor reportedly prepared to kill them.

Thirteen other states also have adopted the program, named for a 9-year-old Texas girl who was abducted and murdered in 1996, and 25 cities and four regions nationwide have created their own versions. Under the program, emergency bulletins are immediately dispatched statewide when police confirm a child under 16 has been abducted by a stranger.

Connecticut created its Amber Alert system in January but has not yet needed it. This week, the Connecticut State Police asked the state transportation department to put the state's "Amber Alert" network on about 110 highway signs.

Although the warnings would run on television and radio stations statewide, the Connecticut program previously did not include use of the flashing highway signs.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, county sheriffs and the Tennessee highway patrol have committed to making the project a reality. ITS signs are scheduled to start working in Tennessee in the fall. The plan is for the signs to go up in Nashville on Oct. 1, Knoxville next year, and Chattanooga and Memphis in two years.