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Tampa conference aims to improve Amber Alert system

TAMPA — More than 350 people from around the world gathered here Tuesday to discuss ways to improve the Amber Alert program to save more missing and abducted children.

The National Amber Alert Training Symposium, taking place at the Hyatt in downtown Tampa, is organized by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The conference has drawn people from as far away as the Netherlands, as well as about 45 relatives of children who have been abducted — some still missing, some found safe and others who were killed.

That includes Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, who was taken from her bedroom in Utah in 2002 and found alive nine months later.

Before his daughter's abduction, Smart said he had never even heard of the Amber Alert, which sends out bulletins on TV, radio, the Internet and highway signs for the public to be on the lookout for the missing child.

"I am a big supporter of the Amber Alert because I believe more children can be saved," Smart said. "And it starts here, in this room. This is the core right here."

At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, the conference will move to the Franklin Street Plaza for a candlelight vigil in memory of two girls who were recently abducted and killed: Somer Thompson, 7, of Orange Park, and Elizabeth Olten, 9, of Missouri.

The conference concludes Thursday.

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or

Tampa conference aims to improve Amber Alert system 10/27/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 2:14pm]
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