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PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Attorney General John Ashcroft on Monday said the Elizabeth Smart case illustrates the need for a nationwide system to alert the public when a child has been kidnapped.
Speaking at a conference on juvenile justice in Philadelphia, Ashcroft said the Utah girl's safe return last week was due in part to tips from ordinary citizens who had seen the case on television.
He reiterated the Bush administration's support for expansion of the Amber Alert system, now in use in 38 states. The system, named for a 9-year-old Texas girl who was kidnapped and murdered, allows police to flash missing-child bulletins on television and radio when there has been an abduction.
"Taking the Amber Alert system nationwide will save innocent lives and take would-be predators off the streets," he said. "As the nation just witnessed in the case of Elizabeth Smart in Utah, an alert and informed citizenry can make all the difference in the recover of a child."
A bill to promote a national system has passed in the U.S. Senate. A similar bill is before the House. The Bush administration has already announced plans to hire a national Amber Alert network coordinator.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)