Rescuing Charlotte: The Lifesaving Impact of Amber Alerts

A Column from the Desk of Assemblyman Karl Brabenec (R,C-Deerpark)

Over the past week, New Yorkers, and indeed the entire nation, were gripped by a whirlwind 48 hours of anxiety as we awaited news of Charlotte Sena's rescue from her apparent abduction and her safe return home. When our State Police issued an early morning alert last Sunday, followed by an AMBER Alert, the top priority became reuniting Charlotte with her parents, a mission that commanded the full attention of law enforcement and even the Governor.

Issuing an AMBER Alert is not just a routine procedure; it signifies a critical and urgent situation involving a missing child. Named after Amber Hagerman, a young girl tragically abducted and murdered in 1996, AMBER Alerts have become a crucial tool in child abduction cases. They are designed to rapidly disseminate information about the missing child, including descriptions of the child, the abductor, and any associated vehicles, to law enforcement agencies, media outlets, and the public. This immediate and widespread notification greatly increases the chances of locating the child and bringing them to safety.

Those 48 hours were tense, but thanks to the dedicated efforts of volunteers, law enforcement professionals, and the tenacious detectives on the case, Charlotte was rescued, and her captor was apprehended.

This story is nothing short of a miracle. Child kidnapping cases become increasingly challenging to solve as time passes, often due to kidnappers crossing state lines to evade detection. However, New York is fortunate to have some of the most dedicated and skilled professionals in the field. Every department acted with unwavering dedication and efficiency to bring Charlotte home. Volunteers from all walks of life rallied together, generously giving their time and energy to help reunite this family, and I am confident that their contributions made a significant impact.

The State Police demonstrated remarkable precision in their operations, strategically allocating resources to secure and seal off any potential escape routes the kidnapper could have utilized. Simultaneously, the FBI made invaluable contributions to the investigation, mobilizing their highly skilled Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) team to support Charlotte's safe recovery. Their expertise was a pivotal turning point when they successfully traced fingerprints on the kidnapper's ransom note back to a 1999 DUI arrest in Saratoga County. This critical lead ultimately led them to the alleged kidnapper's location and resulted in his apprehension.

This ordeal marked another terrifying chapter in New York's history, but it also showcased the state's ability to unify in times of crisis to assist others. It fills me with pride to be one of New York's many representatives in a state characterized by its diverse population, which knows that it shines brightest when we come together during challenging times. This unity made all the difference in Charlotte's life and her family's life. To all the volunteers, law enforcement, and those who selflessly dedicated their time to prevent a tragedy – as a parent myself – I want to express my heartfelt gratitude. You have all done our state proud.

NOTE TO EDITORS: This information provided by the State of New York may interest your readers:

When an AMBER Alert is activated in New York State, here is how you can help:

  • Note alert details and be observant.
  • Immediately call the police or 911 with any information that may help to locate the child.
  • Provide specific details such as the exact location and time of the sighting, descriptions of the child(ren), accomplice(s), automobile(s), and direction of travel.
  • Do not take action that could endanger your safety or escalate danger to the abducted child.

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