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National conference to highlight Utah's Amber Alert system

By Alex Cabrero | Posted - Nov. 13, 2010 at 6:00 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Her bags are packed and she's ready to go, though it's not the trip Elaine Runyan-Simmons would wish on anyone.


It's been my way to fight back and to make it safer for other children. They are our babies, our grandchildren. They are entitled to live safe and free during their lives.

–Elaine Runyan-Simmons


"Well, I don't have a choice," says Runyan-Simmons. "In 1982, when my little daughter Rachel was kidnapped, I was thrown in this group."

That group includes parents of children who were kidnapped, murdered or both. Runyan-Simmons has become a spokeswoman for them -- offering support for others as someone who has been there.

"I think it's appalling we have to do these things, but we can't just sit by and do nothing," she says.

There's still a memorial at her house for Rachel, who was killed 27 years ago. The case is still unsolved and became the stepping stone for what would become Utah's Amber Alert system.

"We have a phenomenal program, so we're really proud of it," said Runyan-Simmons. "It has kind of become a model for other states."

Elaine Runyan-Simmons
Elaine Runyan-Simmons

It's exactly what her trip is all about. The 2010 National Amber Alert Symposium is in Phoenix this coming week. Runyan-Simmons will be a speaker.

So will Paul Murphy, Utah's Amber Alert system coordinator.

"The Amber Alert program seems to be getting better and better every single year," says Murphy. "The things we're finding out is that the number of Amber Alerts is going down and the time it takes for a child to be recovered is taking much less time."

Since 2002, 32 Amber Alerts have been issued in Utah for 37 children. Of those 37, 30 were returned safely, three died and the whereabouts of four are still unknown.

Murphy wishes all the children were returned safely, but still, Utah's Amber Alert system is a successful program.

"I think you just have a lot of people who just want to pitch in and help," he says.

That's what Runyan-Simmons is doing; no matter how hard it is.

"It's been my way to fight back and to make it safer for other children," she says. "They are our babies, our grandchildren. They are entitled to live safe and free during their lives."

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

Alex Cabrero

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