Boston University School of Law

December 2, 2011

The Berman family in 2007

InstantAmber, Instant Assistance:
Mathieu Berman's (’92) Web site connects parents and law enforcement agencies when a child goes missing

Mathieu Berman (’92) never thought the unthinkable could happen to his family, but while on vacation in of the Florida panhandle in 2007, his two-year-old daughter went missing while playing near the water.  While she was eventually found 45 minutes later—having wandered off the beach, down a path, and across a parking lot to sit near a condominium swimming pool—the chaos in between is something Berman will never forget.

“I’m usually not the panicky type, but I panicked,” explains the father of two daughters, aged six and two at the time.  “Those 45 minutes were the longest 45 minutes of my life.” 

The most exasperating thing for Berman was being unable to help law enforcement in ways beyond physically searching the area. 

“It was an eye-opener for me,” he confesses.  “I recognized that I was completely unprepared for that kind of situation.  I had no idea what to do.”

This feeling of dread provided the impetus for Berman to take action and create InstantAmber, an online tool designed to help parents help law enforcement by providing relevant information immediately after their child is lost.  Intended to be a supplement to the Amber Alert systems employed by states, InstantAmber seeks to fill the logistical gap in the first crucial hours after a child goes missing. 

“I was just frustrated with what was out there,” he explains.  “There didn’t seem to be any service that could provide the police with the child’s personal information and recent photos, which meant that parents would have to spend precious time doing these things themselves.”

InstantAmber users can enter relevant information and upload an unlimited amount of pictures to an individual profile, or, “vault” for their child. In the rare yet too common scenario that their child goes missing, the parents or guardians would call 9-1-1, give the authorities their email address and specialized “law enforcement password” for InstantAmber, and most importantly, divert their resources elsewhere knowing that they have done everything in their power to help the investigation.

Berman’s efforts have won accolades from various law enforcement officials and child safety experts.  He explains that his legal background is extremely beneficial in running a startup business.

“If you’re going to be an entrepreneur,” Berman explains, “I think a law degree is the best possible preparation.”

Berman also urges law students to keep an open mind as they enter the working world.  “Go into law practice, " he advises. "Do it for a couple years, and if it’s not for you, know that you are well prepared for other career paths."

Reported by Joe Mielenhausen

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