Amber Stick, aids to the process of finding missing childrenEdit

Device offers police a quick start in Amber Alerts

The Pittsburgh Police Historical Association is selling Amber Sticks for $25 each, or three for $70. For more information, visit

The Amber Stick JC Schisler/Tribune-Review

By Jill King Greenwood TRIBUNE-REVIEW Saturday, February 10, 2007

In the hours after her 4-year-old son was abducted from a North Side parking lot, Binta Smith frantically searched her home for photographs and other information that police needed to issue an Amber Alert.

Ayinde Bradford was taken from his grandmother outside the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh about 9:30 a.m. Thursday. The alert and his photograph were not broadcast statewide until after 1 p.m.

Ayinde was found with his father Thursday night at a Kennedy motel. On Friday, Smith heard about the Amber Stick. She didn't hesitate to buy one.

Fitting on a key chain, the device stores photos, physical descriptions, medical data and other information about a person -- and instantly can be sent to the Amber Alert system. The device plugs directly into a computer and allows parents to upload photos and other information, including a child's allergies, scars or birthmarks, and addresses of relatives and baby sitters.

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"When your child goes missing, you're scared and overwhelmed, and it's hard to remember exactly how tall he is or how much he weighs and to find a recent picture," said Smith, of Stanton Heights. "You need to get that information to police as quickly as you can because people looking for your child need to know what he looks like. I want to do everything I can to keep him safe."

The information can be uploaded directly to the Amber Stick computer server, where police can access the information. The software also can create missing-children posters and fliers, said Pittsburgh police Detective Ken Wagner.

"That way, the public and police can have the photos and the information and can start looking for the child before an Amber Alert is even issued," Wagner said. "It usually takes a parent three hours to get all the information together, and the most critical period of time to look for a missing child is the first two hours after they disappear."

Wagner said police recommend that parents update the information and photos every six months or if their child's appearance changes dramatically.

The software is aimed at missing children, but it can be used for adults who might wander off, such as those suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Wagner said.

The Pittsburgh Police Historical Association -- made up of retired and active police officers who collect and preserve items of historical significance to policing in Pittsburgh -- is selling the Amber Sticks for $25 each, or three for $70.

Jill King Greenwood can be reached at or 412-321-2160.


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