Empirical evidence for AMBER alert as crime control theater: a comparison of student and community samples

While the AMBER Alert system is intended to facilitate the rescue of abducted children, it has practical and psychological limitations. Participants indicated their emotions and perceptions about Alerts before and after reading a vignette that manipulated details about a child abduction. Results ind...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Psychology, crime & law
Main Author: Miller, Monica K. (Author)
Other Authors: Alvarez, Mauricio J. (Author); Weaver, Jordan
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2018
In:Psychology, crime & law
Year: 2018, Volume: 24, Issue: 2, Pages: 83-104
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
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Summary:While the AMBER Alert system is intended to facilitate the rescue of abducted children, it has practical and psychological limitations. Participants indicated their emotions and perceptions about Alerts before and after reading a vignette that manipulated details about a child abduction. Results indicate that the Alert system fits some criteria of Crime Control Theater (CCT). CCT polices are emotion-based legal actions that appear to address crime but fail to do so and have unintended consequences. Participants experienced panic about child abduction and believed the system is an effective tool which should be used no matter the unintended consequences. Emotions and panic positively related to perceptions of the system. Still, perceptions were not particularly positive, indicating that some participants recognize the system's limitations. Female and community participants generally had more positive perceptions than males and students, especially when experiencing high emotions or panic. Reading about an abduction reduced emotions overall and led to more positive perceptions (but only in the ‘AMBER Alert success’ condition). Reading about an ‘Alert failure’ did not affect perceptions. Results highlight the role of emotion in shaping perceptions of the system. As with other CCT policies, lawmakers should rely less on community sentiment and more on science when adopting legislation.
ISSN:1477-2744
DOI:10.1080/1068316X.2017.1390573