Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's Keynote Address

Mark Shurtleff Addresses the 2010 National AMBER Alert Symposium
"Thank you Ron for that kind introduction, and Phil, for your invitation to speak today. It is an honor to address so many professionals and committed surviving family members who have dedicated your lives to protecting children and bringing them all home safe.

I am so impressed with Ernie Allen’s opening summary of the extraordinary growth, change and improvement of the Amber Alert system throughout the U.S. and now, internationally.

Throughout history people have excused the lack of progress or innovation with the apology, “Because That’s The Way They’ve Always Done It.” (BTTWTADI)

Let me share an example:

The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is four feet, eight and a half inches. That is a very odd number. WHY?

BTTWTADI. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Baltimore (B&O) was incorporated in 1827, to build a steam railroad connecting Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Why?

BTTWTADI. While most U.S. railroads were designed by U.S. not British engineers, a number of early lines were built to fit standard-gauge locomotives manufactured by English railroad pioneer George Stephenson. Stephenson was an English mechanical engineer who constructed the first public railway line in the world to use steam locomotives. He is known as the "Father of Railways. His rail gauge was 4 feet 8½ inches, and sometimes called "Stephenson gauge", is the world's standard gauge. WHY?

BTTWTADI. Certain wheel ruts having that same standard gauge at the gate to an old Roman fort called Housesteads on Hadrian's Wall in the north of England. Legend has it that George Stephenson based the gauge he used for his locomotives on the width of these ruts. Most road carriages in Middle Ages inherited the old Roman cart gauge of approximately 4 feet, 8-1/2 inches. WHY?

BTTWTADI. Roman war chariots made the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons. Since the chariots were made for or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing Roman "rutways," many of which were purposely built to standard dimensions (i.e. rutways in buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.) WHY?

BTTWTADI. Julius Caesar set this width under Roman law so that vehicles could traverse Roman villages and towns without getting caught in stone ruts of differing widths. WHY?

BTTWTADI. He copied the Greeks. Costa, our friend from Greece, where are you? Yes, your people started all this. Caesar decided on standard gauge after seeing a "grooveway" at the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece. This was a purposely built set of ruts used to guide the wheels on carts carrying goods being transshipped across the isthmus. Prof. Solomon says he personally measured an excavated portion of this ancient grooveway and found it had a gauge of four feet, eight and a half inches. WHY?

BTTWTADI. That is the width of the hindquarters of two horses pulling a chariot.

Rest of the Story:

Later this month the Space Shuttle Discovery will launch on its 39th and final flight lifted off the pad and 28 miles into space by two solid rocket boosters (SRBs) which are manufactured at the Thiokol plant in Utah. You’ve seen them. Relatively small compared to the large external fuel tank. Why? I have a photo of the SRBs being shipped to Florida by train for final assembly at the launch site.

Need I say more?

So the most advanced form of travel in the 21st Century (space) was designed because of the width of two horses behinds – and that’s they way they always did it.

BTTWTADI is the killer of change. It is the black hole of progress and innovation.

“When you're finished changing, you're finished.” -Benjamin Franklin

I think it is appropriate that we are meeting this week in Phoenix. As you might have guessed the city was named after the mythological bird that burns itself up every 500 years and then comes back from the ashes even more beautiful. Christina Baldwin said that “Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the Phoenix

Public Safety’s greatest change and success came with Law Enforcements change to Community Oriented Policing decades ago

DOJ COPS Program started in 1994. Double digit billions to states, municipalities and tribes.

“Community” - A study published in the journal Science reporting on the project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods concluded that the largest single predictor of crime levels in the neighborhoods studied was “collective efficacy.”
(Sampson et al., 1998) The authors’ defined collective efficacy as “mutual trust among neighbors combined with a willingness to intervene on behalf of the common good.”

Neighborhood Watch grew out of the community concept of working together in support of law enforcement to work together.

The mark of a healthy and thriving community is how it treats and protects its children.

So permit me to suggest a new slogan to motivate and inspire all of us to even greater growth and success. Let it be the antithesis of “Because That’s The Way They’ve Always Done It”:

Because That’s The Way We Save a Child (BTTWWSAC)

  • March 2001 - I attended my first meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General and picked up a book and video put together by DOJ, NCMEC and the National Association of Broadcasters. That year only 2 children were recovered from an AMBER Alert and only 16 children had been recovered since the program was launched in 1996. I asked my Director of Communications and Policy, Paul Murphy, to establish a statewide Amber Alert system for Utah in one year’s time. He went to work with Dale Zabriski of the Utah Broadcasters Association and Gina McMahon of the Department of Public Safety.
  • April 2002 - Utah launches the Rachael Alert (named for little Rachael Runyon who was kidnapped and murdered nearly twenty years earlier.) It was the nation’s 9th statewide child abduction alert plan and was created with help of Oklahoma and other states with statewide plans. Why? BTTWWSAC
  • June 2002 - Elizabeth Smart abducted and the world wants to know about AMBER Alerts. Numerous states start seeking help to set up their own AMBER Alert plans.
  • August 2002 - Utah started using highway signs after seeing how they worked in California becomes one of the 1st states to add alerts to highway signs. Why? BTTWWSAC
  • January 2003 – Jeff Salt driving to work sees Alert flashing on Highway Sign. One hour later spots suspects entering a YWCA
  • April 2003 - Utah changes the Rachael Alert to the AMBER Alert to avoid confusion and because the term AMBER Alert had captured the nation’s attention. Utah creates the Rachael Runyon Award to honor Rachael’s memory. Her mother Elaine Runyon-Simmons is the HEART of Utah’s Amber Alert Team. Here today, she holds an annual fundraiser that raises our entire Amber Alert budget. Jeff Salt was the first recipient of the award. Why? BTTWWSAC
  • May 2003 – I was being interviewed on the Doug Wright show on KSL Radio. A long-haul trucker driving through the state was listening and called in. He asked why we didn’t broadcast the Amber Alert on the trucker Channel 19. So we did. Why? BTTWWSAC
  • May 2003 – A Utah company innovated a text crawl and pilots it on laptops in police vehicles. The Provo Police Department issued an alert for an 11-year-old girl after receiving information from police in St. Cloud, Minnesota that a 21-year-old man may be heading to Provo with the girl. Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Randall Richey on side of !-80 in Northeastern Utah near the Wyoming border noticed the alert on the laptop computer in his car and started figuring out how long it would take someone to travel from Minnesota to Utah. While he was waiting for the results, he spotted the suspect’s car (less than 45 minutes after the alert was issued in Utah!)
  • July 2003 - Utah begins sending AMBER Alerts by e-mail & text. Why? BTTWWSAC
  • September 2005 - Utah launches the Endangered Person Advisory - an alert for cases that don’t meet the AMBER Alert criteria & is now in most states. BTTWWSAC
  • December 30, 2005 - The Box Elder County Sheriff's Office issued an AMBER Alert for 7 and 12 year old brothers kidnapped by their noncustodial mother in a stolen vehicle. Authorities feared the children were in imminent danger because the suspect allegedly suffers from psychotic schizophrenia and has a history of drug abuse and violence with other family members. 370 miles south, in Ivins, Utah, Mike Butcher and his wife Chasity Angell saw the alert on TV and notwithstanding they lived on a back road, 10 miles from the interstate, they memorized the details “just in case” The next morning they spotted the suspect and called the Ivins City Police Department and followed the suspect's car. The mother was arrested and the children were recovered 2 minutes later.
  • August 2007 - Utah launches the statewide Child Abduction Response Team and numerous regional and local CARTs are soon developed. Thanks to our Utah CART Commander Special Agent Jessica Farnsworth. This concept was based on work developed by Florida. Why? BTTWWSAC
  • 2009 - Same day recoveries of children have increased from to 71% from 60% in 2005. The number of non-family abductions decreased from 101 in 2005 to 61 in 2009.
  • July 2009 - Salt Lake City hosts the nation’s largest AMBER Alert Initiative training, overall Utah has trained more people than any other state. Why? BTTWWSAC
  • August 2010 – Utah’s statewide Child Abduction Response Team receives national certification. Thank you Phil Keith and Floy Turner!
  • Today - More than 500 children have been safely recovered because of an AMBER Alert. 94% of all children have been recovered after the National AMBER Alert program was established in 2003. More than 250 CART teams have been trained and created. Today AMBER Alerts go out on highway signs, cell phones, e-mails, lottery tickets, taxi cabs and through many other means.
  • Today – International expansion and innovation. Speaking of railroads, France has added Amber Alert crawls in its trains. Technology (thanks to Utah AG Deputy Communication Director Scott Troxel, who also runs all media for these symposia and is posting a live blog as we speak. Go to www.ambersymposia.blogspot.com)
  • LAPD and Green Bay, WI using a “Twitter-like” system for Amber Alerts. (I sent a Tweet today to my 8,000 followers and also posted info on my Facebook page and a photo of NCMEC President Ernie Allen giving this morning’s keynote.
  • The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Indiana PD are joining other agencies in using Facebook (500 million “friends.”) Red Robin raises money in Colorado in partnership with NCMEC to give out child identification kits. Business has been wonderful (In Utah Verizon Wireless, and Hard Rock CafĂ©!) Missouri Child Identification and Protection Program .100,000 registrations (info, digital photos, fingerprints, bite impressions) Why? BTTWWSAC
  • Paul Klass (Klass Kid’s Foundation) is urging the FCC to approve a proposal by Clarity Media Systems, LLC, a subsidiary of Flying J Inc., the company that owns and operates hundreds of Flying J travel plazas across the country’s highways. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires America’s 2-million long haul truck drivers to spend 10-hours or more per day resting. Clarity will make this special channel the default channel that every truck driver sees when he turns on the television set while at rest in his cab and that plays continuously in the common areas of the highway travel plazas. He’s put out a call for our help in contacting the FCC. Why? BTTWWSAC

One person who turned tragedy into triumph with a great idea started a movement, joined by others whose terrible loss mandated action, that has changed dramatically the way we react to missing and abducted children. Those few became dozens, then hundreds here today and tens of thousands who work with us across the country and now around the world; and literally millions of citizens turned first responders looking for a missing child. All of you here today are doing something that will make sure a young child will make it home alive. Why? Because That’s The Way We Save A Child!


Miguel de Cervantes, wrote of Don Quixote tilting at windmills. (Some might say that you are doing the same given the fact that there will always be those who will kidnap, hurt and kill our children and we cannot save them all. I know you are here to reach not such an “Impossible Dream.” Cervantes said, “The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune's spite; revive from ashes and rise.”

For all of us here this week, let Phoenix represent Change; Progress; Innovation. It will only be so however if you catch fire and take inspiration, knowledge and renewed motivation to continue to create, innovate, expand, enlarge and enhance our efforts. That Is The Way We Save not just A Child, but thousands, even countless, lives.

God bless you in your efforts."

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