SALT LAKE CITY -- Speed is everything with an Amber Alert, and a new program unveiled Wednesday might make the notification system work faster.
State officials used a news conference to demonstrate the Law Enforcement Alerting Portal -- or LEAP -- a high-speed portal that can alert people through email, texts, fax and RSS feeds about child abduction. The new portal can create a PDF with a picture and description of the child, as well as provide information about the suspect and the vehicle.
Making Amber Alerts available to the palm of the hand only works, however, if people sign up. People can sign up for the alerts via www.amberalertcom. The signup is free and funded by private money.
Speed is everything when it comes to addressing an abduction, said Elaine Runyan-Simmons, of Layton, whose daughter, Rachael, was abducted in 1982 in Sunset. Her body was found 24 days later in Morgan County.
"We're constantly progressing with our Amber Alert system. This is a step forward to speed things up. We're finding it is working, and we're doing it together," Runyan-Simmons said.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Utah has the highest per capita ownership of smartphones and electronic devices and has been at the forefront of dealing with child abduction. He said 17 abducted children have been recovered from Amber Alerts.
Amber Alert GPS, a Utah company that uses technology to help make the program work, operates LEAP and is providing the service for free to Utah and other states.
Russ Thornton, who started the company, said he lost his son for 45 minutes. He developed a GPS device that allows parents to track the whereabouts of their children. He said sales of the device are helping to fund the alert portal in the Beehive State.
"Our goal is to make the world safer for kids. We have a stellar record of bringing kids home in Utah," Thornton said.
Runyan-Simmons said one missing child is one too many.
"We don't want another child, or outcome, to end like my daughter. It's too painful, and the price is too high," she said.
A local businesswoman, Runyan-Simmons and members of the Davis County Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Professional Leadership Committee have scheduled a fundraiser Nov. 3 at the Davis Conference Center in Layton to help raise funds for the Amber Alert program.