AMBER ALERT: Fact, or Fiction?
Information provided by | Chuck Fleeger
Fiction: There is a mandatory waiting period to report someone missing.
Fact: There is no waiting period of any length to report a missing person. It is actually against Federal Law for a law enforcement agency to impose any waiting period in reporting a missing child. Law enforcement agencies must have the name and date of birth of a missing child or adult entered into appropriate state and national databases within 2 hours of receiving the report.
Fiction: runaways are just “bad kids” with “bad parents.”
Fact: Simply put, a runaway child is a missing child. No matter what the “assumed” reason that they are missing is, they should be considered at risk until proven otherwise.
Fiction: it’s an adult, they can be missing if they want to be.
Fact: While this is true to some degree, often the circumstances involved in a missing adult incident may not be known and assumptions about the reason/motive for being gone could cause valuable time to be lost. If an adult is reported missing, once they are found and their welfare is verified, they can and most likely will be allowed to go about their business. But if they are missing and they have been the victim of a crime, a medical issue, or have become lost/injured it is much better to find them quickly.
Fiction: every missing child should have an Amber Alert issued.
Fact: While it is very important that the public be notified about every missing child and adult, it is also very important that the incidents be properly classified based on the known circumstances so that the public and our local media partners know exactly what the situation and response should be. Amber Alerts are one of two alert programs that are also federally legislated and as such they are the only alert programs that have regulations overseen by the FCC. This is due to utilization of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA-cellular telephone alerting technology) in the Amber Alert. Overuse of these systems would reduce their effectiveness and they must be reserved for those cases proven to be the most serious involving child abductions.
Fiction: Amber Alert is federally funded.
Fact: The Amber Alert Network Brazos Valley is a local non-profit organization, and we depend on local government funding as well as the generosity of individuals, businesses, and other charitable organizations. To deliver the services described above and remain a community resource for the future, we need that incredibly important public support.
AMBER ALERT: tips and tricks
What are the recommended steps to take when someone goes missing?
1. Immediately contact local police. It is much better to have police on the way and then be able to cancel them if the missing child/adult is found than to lose valuable time waiting.
2. Search for the missing person but be careful not to disturb possible evidence.
3. Have a description and current digital photograph of the missing person to provide to law enforcement to use in any public notification efforts.
4. Know where the missing person frequents, the names of friends, patterns, habits, or anything that might point law enforcement in the right direction.
5. Get the name of the responding officer, a case number, and the name of any assigned investigative personnel assigned to your missing person case.
6. Designate one family member to be the point of contact for investigative personnel. If they have to contact and brief multiple family members, it causes them to lose time in looking for your loved one.
7. For cases that go longer, use a notebook to write things down that might be relevant as they are told to you, or you remember them and periodically report that data to investigative personnel.
8. Notify law enforcement if your loved one returns home so they can be removed from state and national databases.
What are some tips for parents or kids on preventing situations like an Amber Alert?
- Keep a recent photograph (digital) of your child.
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has studied attempted child abductions for over a decade and they found that two of the top ways that children escape an attempted abduction is to run/fight or to yell/cause a scene.
- Talk to them about appropriate behavior rather than “Stranger Danger.” Studies have shown the majority of children are victimized by someone that they know as opposed to a complete stranger. Let them know that they have the right to tell an adult “no” if they ask or behave inappropriately with the child.