Police will now have more assistance when looking for missing children in the District of Columbia and Maryland: the cable guy will be helping look for the victim, too.
Comcast Corp. has agreed to enlist its 800 regional field personnel in the Amber Alert network in the area. The Amber Alert was developed in 1997 in response to the kidnap and murder of Arlington, Texas, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman.
When a child goes missing, authorities publicize details, such as the description of the child and the license plate and any vehicle used, if known, that might have been involved in abduction.
The messages are broadcast on TV and radio, and displayed on highway traffic-status signs. Now, Comcast field workers have been tied into the network.
When an alert is declared, a text message will be sent to the cell phones and lap tops that all field workers carry. They will be advised to watch for suspicious vehicles or behavior, said Comcast spokesman Mitchell Schmale. They are instructed to call 911 or any other specific number dedicated for a particular kidnapping investigation, if they see any suspicious activity.
The technology has been installed and tested and “works flawlessly,” Schmale added. Technicians have received training in what to look for as they complete their rounds, he said.
The Comcast cluster serves Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, as well as Washington.
The operator’s volunteer spirit drew praise from Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr., who said the company is an integral part of public safety initiatives in his state.
“The partnership between the state of Maryland and Comcast to launch this new Amber alert initiative is important to the well being of our children,” he said when the partnership was announced.
Extending the network can only speed up the capture of an abductor and the safe return of a child, he added.
The equipment has been in place in the cable operation for three weeks, but Comcast has yet to be called upon, Schmale said.
The company might consider extending participation to its operations in Virginia, he added.