Illustration showing AMBER Alert-related feature that appeared on the front page of the Minneapolis, MN, Star Tribune newspaper. It shows two quotes, one from Janell Rasmussen, and the other from Patty Wetterling.By Denise Gee Peacock

The work of the AMBER Alert Training & Technical Assistance Program (AATTAP) and its Minnesota-based partners was front-page news this week in the state’s largest newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The June 9, 2024, article—entitled “Amber Alerts help avert nightmares: State’s system finds kids, builds on success”—was written by reporter Kim Hyatt.

“AMBER Alert finds missing children with efficiency, spreading lifesaving information statewide in an instant and leading to swift recoveries,” Hyatt reports. “Since Minnesota launched the program in 2002, all but one of the 46 children subject of the alerts here were safely recovered—most within the same day.”

The state’s success with AMBER Alert “does not mean the system is static,” Hyatt noted. “It continues to improve through training and by spreading to new communities 22 years after it was initiated by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).”

Photo of AATTAP-AIIC team with Minnesota Tribes and law enforcement during a Technology Toolkits presentation in May 2023.
The AATTAP’s AMBER Alert in Indian Country (AIIC) team provided free Technology Toolkits to Minnesota’s 11 federally recognized Tribes in May 2023. The AIIC was created after passage of the Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2018, which provides training and technical assistance to Tribes to foster stronger and faster communication and with regional, state, and federal law enforcement partners.
The article includes these highlights:
  • Since inception of the state’s AMBER Alert program in 2002, 46 children have been the focus of AMBER Alerts. Nearly half of those children (22) were safely recovered in less than three hours. One child, Alayna Ertl, was not able to be safely recovered.
  • In 2013, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to successfully send AMBER Alerts to cellphones, which led to the quick recovery of a baby in Minneapolis.
  • The state’s most recent AMBER Alert was the first to be issued by a Minnesota Tribe (the Red Lake Tribal Police). The alert led to the successful recovery of a missing 3-year-old child.
  • Interviews with two native (and current) Minnesotans who not only have made significant impacts in Minnesota, but in the nation—and beyond:
    • Patty Wetterling, a longtime advocate for missing children. She is the mother of Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted at age 11 on October 22, 1989, by a masked gunman near their home in St. Joseph, Minnesota. (Jacob’s remains were found nearly 27 years after his abduction, and his abductor charged with murder.) Wetterling co-founded and is past director of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s counseling network Team HOPE, and has shared countless victim impact sessions with law enforcement across the U.S.—much of them for the AATTAP and its parent organization, the National Criminal Justice Training Center of Fox Valley Technical College. (Read more about Wetterling’s work for U.S. Department of Justice resource, When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide, and her new book, Dear Jacob: A Mother’s Journey of Hope.)
    • Child protection expert Janell Rasmussen. Rasmussen serves as Administrator of the AATTAP, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice to provide training and technical assistance to law enforcement throughout the United States and its territories, Indian Country, and abroad. Early in Rasmussen’s career she worked as AMBER Alert Coordinator for the Minnesota BCA—and became a good friend of the Wetterling family. Read more about her AATTAP work here.
  • Insight into the state’s AMBER Alert work from BCA Superintendent Drew Evans. “There’s only so many law enforcement officers that are out working at any given time. Yet we have nearly six million Minnesotans that can be our eyes and ears out in the community, and everybody has a vested interest in recovering our children,” he told the Star Tribune. (Note: The Star Tribune reported that access to AMBER Alerts is spreading to new communities, but everyone in the state has had the ability to request AMBER Alerts since the state plan was created in 2002.)
Photo showing Patty Wetterling (second from right), Janell Rasmussen (far right), Donna Norris (mother of Amber Hagerman, center), U.S. DOJ Assistant Attorney General Deborah J. Daniels (second from left), and abduction survivor Tamara Brooks (far left) at the first national AMBER Alert Conference in 2003.
At the first national AMBER Alert Conference in 2003, Patty Wetterling (second from right) and Janell Rasmussen (far right) are photographed with Donna Norris (center), the mother of AMBER Alert namesake Amber Hagerman. Also shown are then-U.S. DOJ Assistant Attorney General Deborah J. Daniels (second from left), and abduction survivor Tamara Brooks (far left). “There’s strength in the resilience of these searching parents,” Wetterling told the Star Tribune. Rasmussen notes that when this photograph was taken, she was pregnant with her daughter, who is expected to graduate next year with a degree in criminal justice.