Ever wonder why no Amber Alert has been issued for a child?
Written by guest author Karla Vanatta
Every day I hear about someone who is missing. Sometimes it is an adult, like in the case of Brandon Lawson at Help Find Brandon Lawson. More often than not though, it is children that are missing. A lot of those children are teenagers and I have lost track of the amount of times I have read someone commenting that the teenagers are probably just runaways. Regardless if that is true or not, their family is still desperate to find them and the child’s life could depend on each and every one of us sharing those post. You never know when you could save their life just by taking the time to read the post and share it. The most common question I see though is, “Why has no Amber Alert been issued?” Someone ask that on almost every post that does not have an Amber Alert attached to it.
This article is for any of you who may be new to missing people pages or stories and do not know what an Amber Alert is. It is also for those of you who do know what it is and have found yourself asking the same question, even I have asked many times, though I already know the answer; why has no Amber Alert been issued?
What is an Amber Alert?
According to google Amber Alert is an emergency response system that disseminates information about a person (usually a child), by media broadcasting or electronic roadway signs. But it is more than that. Amber Alert was started and named after a 9-year-old child named Amber Hagerman who was kidnapped and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996. The word Amber is also an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. The goal of the Amber Alert is to get as much information about the missing person out all across the nation to as many people as possible. Most cell phones will receive text alerts. Law enforcement agencies across the country are notified. Radio stations, internet radio, satellite radio, television stations, the Emergency Alert System, NOAA Weather Radio all send out alerts. In addition, the alerts are sent out via email, electronic highway signs and commercial electronic billboards. Amber Alert has also teamed up with Google, Facebook and Bing to release the alerts to certain demographics. With all the publicity you can clearly see why any parent of a missing child, that wants the child found, would want an Amber Alert issued for their child. But it is not that simple.
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Law Enforcement Determination
Law enforcement have to determine who qualifies for an Amber Alert and who doesn’t. For an Amber Alert to be issued all law enforcement agencies have to take into account a list of recommendations. First of all law enforcement has to determine that an abduction has occurred or is extremely likely to have occurred. They have to have enough information to determine that the child’s life is in danger or that the child is in danger of great bodily harm. Stranger abductions represent the greatest danger to children, so when a stranger abduction is suspected those cases are immediately considered for Amber Alerts. Other cases that would immediately be considered are those in which the child or family knows the abductor and they have threatened the child’s life or threatened bodily harm to the child, or the abductor has a past history of physical harm to a child or extreme physical harm to another human being, such as kidnapping, rape or murder. Whether the abductor is a stranger or not though, law enforcement have to believe that issuing an Amber Alert would enhance their efforts to locate the child and apprehend the suspect. Every state is requested to adopt a 17 and under standard, or at least agree to accept the requesting states criteria. Each state working together with other states is a must, even if their requirements differ.
Why not all?
So why are not all missing children who meet these requirements given an Amber Alert? Even if the age requirement is met and the child is believed to have been abducted and in immediate and grave danger, law enforcement still need to be able to clearly identify the child, have a description of the abductor and the abductors vehicle and any information about the abduction itself that could help locate the child. Otherwise, issuing the alert would be pointless because no one would really know who to look for. For example if they say that a 4-year-old boy is missing and possibly with an adult male age 30-35, that could be anyone, anywhere. For the Amber Alerts to work, people have to know who they are looking for.
Also, you have the question I referred to earlier when it comes to teenagers. We have all seen it. We have likely all thought it at least once. What if the child is just a runaway? That is always a possibility. According to an article from the National Conference for State Legislatures titled Homeless and Runaway Youth, an estimated 1 in 7 youth between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away. Even though these children could still potentially and likely be in danger, law enforcement cannot issue Amber Alerts for them, as there are just too many. If Amber Alerts were issued for every child that ran away, the Amber Alert system would become ineffective as people would not pay attention to the alerts because they would go off so often. For those children who do not meet the Amber Alert requirements we can still share posters and post about them in the hopes that they will be found and saved.
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Once a case has met all requirements and law enforcement determines and Amber Alert will be issued, they gather all of the information they take all of the information they have on the child, the abductor, the abductors vehicle and the abduction itself, and enter it into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) systems and they flag the case as child abductions. Once this information is entered the search is expanded to the national level and all alerts are put into place. A number for the law enforcement agency in charge of the case is put on the alert as well as instructions to call 911 if anyone has any information on the case.
Tomorrow when I read about another missing child, if they do not have an Amber Alert issued on their case, I will still wonder to myself why they can’t all have Amber Alerts, though I already know the answer. Maybe you will wonder too, but if you read this article, hopefully your mind will understand a little more, even if your heart still wonders why.
Why has no Amber Alert been Issued?
was written by Karla Vanatta.