Governor Bob McDonnell announced today a new partnership between the Virginia Lottery and Virginia State Police aimed at increasing the chances of Virginia law enforcement locating a missing and endangered child during a Virginia Amber Alert. The new concept is a result of a suggestion submitted by a citizen to the governor by email.
“When the Virginia State Police issues an Amber Alert, every second counts and the message needs to be spread quickly,” said Governor McDonnell. “Thanks to a great idea from Christopher Divers of Virginia Beach and the collaborative efforts of the Virginia Lottery and our State Police, thousands of Lottery retailers in the Commonwealth will be able to notify customers of a Virginia Amber Alert activation.”
The Lottery’s in-store electronic display systems will indicate the locality of the alert and instruct the public to go to www.vaamberalert.com for details concerning the missing and endangered child and any information regarding the abductor. The Amber Alert messages will scroll across the top of the self-service Lottery Express vending machines and along the display screen above the clerk-operated Lottery terminal.
Under normal circumstances, these display systems show jackpot amounts and marketing messages. While the alert is scrolling, no marketing messages will be displayed. Retailers do not need to do anything; the messages are generated by the Lottery’s data center, which receives the notification from Virginia State Police.
Currently the Lottery has more than 5,000 clerk-operated terminals and approximately 700 Lottery Express self-service vending machines at retailers across the Commonwealth.
“We are delighted to be able to use the Lottery’s equipment and partnerships with retailers across the Commonwealth to assist the Virginia State Police,” said Paula Otto, Virginia Lottery executive director. “While we hope this help will never be needed, we want to respond quickly and effectively when it becomes necessary.”
The Virginia Amber Alert Program was established by the General Assembly in 2002 and been used to issue 29 alerts for missing and endangered child cases that meet the criteria for activation. The Amber Alert notifies the public of a missing and endangered child via broadcast media through the Emergency Alert System, Virginia Department of Transportation electronic message signs, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Amber Alert website, the Virginia State Police Facebook page, and the non-profit A Child Is Missing Program. Major public utilities and the Virginia Realtors Association also help spread the message of an alert to their employees statewide.