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Plan pulls Net into search for kids

A California lawmaker wants to put the Amber Alert service--which spreads details of abducted children using electronic highway billboards--on all state-funded Web sites.

The move to take Amber Alerts from interstates to the Internet is accelerating.

California State Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, unveiled a proposal Monday to include Amber Alerts on all state-funded Internet sites. Introduced almost a decade ago, Amber Alerts use highway billboards to post child abduction notices and to enlist public help. The state Senate bill is the latest effort to expand the alerts to Internet sites.

"In our increasingly high-tech society, more and more people get on the information superhighway every day," said Florez in a statement. "This will be the equivalent of a flashing road sign for computer users to broaden the search for kidnap victims."

Last October, America Online announced plans to post Amber Alerts on its Web site. Since starting its program, AOL has signed up 135,000 of its members and AOL Instant Messenger users to receive Amber Alerts via e-mail updates, as pop-up screen messages, or via pagers and cell phones, said Nicholas Graham, an AOL spokesman.

And as early as next week, popular search engine Google is expected to

Under Florez's SB 406 proposal, all agencies that receive California state funding and operate a Web site will be required to prominently display a scrolling bar with details of current Amber Alerts. People who click on the scrolling alert notice will be connected to the California Highway Patrol's Web site.

The proposal by Florez comes at a time when Congress is considering creating a national Amber Alert notification system.

Currently, Amber Alerts are posted under voluntary agreements between local law enforcement agencies and private companies to disseminate information about child kidnappings, typically using electronic billboard signs on highways and media broadcasts. The program--named after a 9-year-old Texas girl who was kidnapped and murdered--has been credited with aiding in the rescue of dozens of children since the mid-1990s.