MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Thursday night, many people received an AMBER Alert directly to their phone, notifying them of a little girl, taken by her mother.

Within three hours, tips from the public helped find the child. Police arrested Yusra Abumayaleh last night after other drivers saw her car on the road.

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After she picked up her daughter from daycare she went to the DMV and changed her license plates. She’s been charged for taking the little girl once her custodial rights were taken away. Police issued the AMBER Alert after learning she had made statements to social workers about harming herself and other people.

It’s an unfamiliar notification that pops up right on our phones — and an image that simultaneously shows up on street signs.

“I was in the gas station getting gas,” said Alison Feigh, Program Manager of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation. “All the phone went off at the same time. Different beeps and flashes. People were asking questions about what was going on.”

It’s an AMBER alert — an urgent bulletin sent out in the most serious child abduction cases.

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“The goal originally was when kids went missing and were high risk, we want people to stop and look,” Feigh said.

The AMBER Alert System began in 1996, and by 2009 every state had a plan. It’s a system Feigh wishes was in place when Jacob was abducted in 1989.

“When Jacob was taken, they were at a 60 percent recovery rate for missing people,” she said. “And now the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports over 97 percent of missing children are found. A big part of that is the fact that we are all connected in a different way than we were in the 1980s.”

Local law enforcement chooses when to issue an AMBER Alert, but they have to follow these guidelines:
1. Confirm the abduction.
2. Have a known risk of serious bodily injury or death.
3. Obtain enough information to broadcast to the public to help locate the child and suspect.
4. The child must be 17 or younger.

“I think the system works,” Feigh said. “In Minnesota we’ve used it 29 times. We’ve had 29 successful recoveries. Every time we’ve used the AMBER alert in MN, the child has been found. That’s a wonderful thing.”

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The AMBER Alert program is a completely voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies and the wireless industry. The last time Minnesota had an AMBER Alert was in 2013.