Faces of the AMBER Alert Network: Illinois

Illinois AMBER Alert Coordinator Craig Burge

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Craig Burge works for the Illinois State Police (ISP). He has been the state AMBER Alert Coordinator and Missing Person Clearinghouse Manager since 2011. He started his career with the ISP working on sex offender registration and management. His experience with providing sex offender information with the legislature and the public prepared him in his mission to promote child safety.

WHAT IS UNIQUE TO YOUR AMBER ALERT PROGRAM, AND WHAT DO YOU THINK HELPS MAKE YOUR PROGRAM SUCCESSFUL?

Our AMBER Alert program is simple and effective. Law enforcement, broadcasters and the public want a program that is easy to comprehend. We have one alerting system with the same criteria since its inception so everybody is familiar with how it works. What makes our program so successful is our AMBER Alert partners and their dedication to child safety. We have an AMBER Alert Task force that is made up of various agencies, entities and associations that really want to help with spreading the word about an abducted child. We have a tremendous relationship with the people at the Illinois Broadcasters Association who dedicate their airwaves for AMBER Alert messages and child abduction safety issues. The support the AMBER Alert program receives from these partners is what makes our program a success.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE IN MAINTAINING THE EFFECTIVENESS AND STRENGTH OF YOUR AMBER ALERT PROGRAM?

As the AMBER Alert program evolves, it must grow and change with the times. People are always finding new ways to get their information. The AMBER Alert program must utilize the newest social networks and technologies to provide the public with information through the platforms they are using to access their news and alerts. It is always a challenge to find the appropriate funding and resources necessary to stay on top of the technology advances. Our AMBER Alert program is a privately funded program. No state resources are appropriated for its use. That makes building relationships with private agencies and organizations extremely important.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN WITH YOUR AMBER ALERT PROGRAM IN THE FUTURE? WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE PROGRAM?

I would like to see the AMBER Alert program be connected in every state. I would like to see a day when an AMBER Alert is issued in Illinois, and if we need that Alert to be released in another state, it can be done in a matter of minutes. Child abductions are not bound by geographic borders and neither should AMBER Alerts. The hope is one day all states will be connected to the same system which will allow AMBER Alerts to be sent out seamlessly across state lines. When time is of the essence, we need this quick connection with other states.

PLEASE SHARE DETAILS ABOUT YOUR MOST MEMORABLE AMBER ALERT SUCCESS STORY.

It was September 2012. A 3-week-old child was discovered by a farmer and his wife because they heard the AMBER Alert and decided to go out and look for the child. The child was left on the side of the road in a rural area, but the farmer was able to hear the faint cries of the child as he was driving along in his diesel pickup truck. It is a truly amazing story with an outcome that still brings a smile to my face.

HOW HAVE YOUR CAREER AND LIFE EXPERIENCES, INCLUDING YOUR WORK AS AN AMBER ALERT COORDINATOR, STRENGTHENED YOUR COMMITMENT TO HELPING ENDANGERED, MISSING AND ABDUCTED CHILDREN?

I have been in law enforcement for almost 18 years, mostly dealing with child safety issues. I can tell you there is no better feeling you can have in your law enforcement career than to return a child home safely. It is a feeling that makes everything worth it.