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Scutari Bill Requiring Amber Alerts Be Disseminated Via Text Message To Publicly-Provided Cell Phones Sent To Governor’s Desk

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Union) to ensure that alerts are more widely disseminated when a child has been abducted has received final legislative approval, sending it to the desk of Governor Chris Christie.

The measure (A-2781/S-1431) would require Amber Alerts be distributed via text message to public officers and employees issued cellular phones or electronic communication devices by their employer.

“Discovering that a child has gone missing is, by any measure, a parent’s worst nightmare. But the more people who are made aware that an abduction has occurred, the better a chance we have of finding the perpetrator and getting the child safely back home,” said Senator Scutari. “This legislation will allow us to disseminate Amber Alerts to a network of public workers almost instantly, thereby, increasing the likelihood of a child rescue.”

Specifically, the bill would require the employee to enroll in the national Wireless Amber Alerts Initiative, which is a voluntary partnership among the wireless industry, the United States Department of Justice, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to distribute Amber Alert text messages to wireless subscribers who register.

The bill requires employees with work-issued cell phones – such as certain Division of Youth and Family Services and Department of Transportation employees working in the field – at a minimum, to enroll to receive Amber Alert text messages in the zip code that corresponds to the municipalities where they live and work.

“A single sighting of a car or a person involved in an abduction can mean the difference between life and death for a child,” added Senator Scutari. “Getting information out to a larger segment of the population quickly will better ensure that the perpetrator is located by authorities, and the child is found and returned home.”

The requirement would apply only if the wireless provider participates in the national Wireless Amber Alerts Initiative, and if the phone is capable of receiving text messages, and subscribed to a plan that allows text messages.

The bill was approved unanimously by the Senate in May by a vote of 40-0. The Assembly passed it Monday by a 73-0-1 vote.

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