Uber teams up with Amber Alert: Can drivers help bring missing kids home?

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is tapping into Uber's extensive network of drivers to spread the word about missing children.

Hyungwon Kang/Reuters/File
An Uber driver's smartphone app is shown in this Uber vehicle en route to Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia September 8.

Uber announced a partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) Tuesday, by notifying all driver-partners when an Amber Alert is issued.

The Amber Alert system is a voluntary program between law enforcement and media sources that "activates an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases." The system is designed to bring home children safely by recruiting the public to aid in search efforts through TV, radio, phone, and other announcements.

“The Uber network covers 75 percent of the US population,” Uber wrote in a press release Tuesday. “We are proud to harness this reach to support the Amber Alert program, and to quickly connect drivers with information that could make all the difference for neighbors and communities.”

In 2014, NCMEC helped law enforcement with 12,000 cases of missing children. Since its inception in 1996, AMBER Alerts have been responsible for bringing 772 children home.

These success stories “remind us we can’t give up on these children.... It’s easy to believe the worst, but our children time after time have proven us wrong,” Robert Lowery, a vice president at NCMEC, told Stacy Teicher Khadaroo with The Christian Science Monitor last year.

NCMEC reports that 97 percent of the children reported to them are returned safely to their families, a vast improvement from 62 percent in 1990.

Not only do Amber Alerts mobilize the eyes and ears of the public, but they have also “shown that some perpetrators release the abducted child after hearing the Amber Alert on the radio or seeing it on television,” according to the US Department of Justice.

“The Amber Alert program’s success is built on the ability to reach the right people at the right time with these potentially life-saving messages,” Robert Hover, Director of Special Programs in the Missing Children Division at NCMEC, said in an Uber press release. “Uber’s presence in communities all across the country will be an incredible asset and we are proud to team up with Uber to increase the reach of the Amber Alert program and help bring more missing children home safely.”

Uber initiated a pilot program of the partnership a few months ago in Colorado. The program was named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and killed in 1996 while riding her bike in Arlington, Texas.

“Timing is the essential part of an Amber Alert,” Uber Colorado general manager Will McCollum told The Denver Post

And with 30,000 drivers in New York City alone, Uber says they can make a real difference in locating missing children.

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