How AMBER Alerts are issued could help local law enforcement with searches
Published 6:45 pm Saturday, May 13, 2017
Changes to state criteria to issue an AMBER Alert for missing children could benefit local law enforcement.
The changes were made last month at the request of Governor Kay Ivey after a vehicle was stolen with a child inside and an AMBER Alert was not issued.
Ivey asked Hal Taylor, secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, to review the criteria, which resulted in changes.
Chief Deputy Randy Pugh with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department said they haven’t had many cases of missing children in the last few years, but the changes are a good thing.
“We went through a lot of it three or four years ago, but it’s been kind of quiet thank goodness,” he said.
“We had that one out at Craig one time where we thought a kid had been kidnapped, and before I could make it back to the office, one of our officers found him two or three blocks down the road. That was the closest we’ve had to an Amber Alert that I can recall over the last few years.”
Pugh said the biggest benefit with the changes is time.
“It’d be quicker for us that way we don’t have to do so much analyzing of what criteria we need just to be able to come up here and say get this out,” Pugh said. “Time is what you’re looking at there.”
Under the new criteria, an abduction will not be required, which will allow the alert to get out quicker.
When an AMBER Alert is used, it is broadcast on television, radio, department of transportation signs and cell phones.
Selma Police Chief Spencer Collier said the changes have benefits, but he doesn’t want AMBER Alerts to become too routine.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. We just have to make sure it doesn’t start getting to the criteria where people don’t pay attention to it. Oh, it’s just another Amber Alert,” Collier said.
As former secretary of ALEA, Collier has experience with AMBER Alerts.
“During my time at ALEA there were times when we used it, and there were times that we didn’t use it that we caught flack for,” he said. “One was in Prichard. The little girl was raped and murdered, and her father ended up being convicted of it, but we knew pretty early on he was a suspect.”
While the changes will make it easier for the alerts to be issued, Collier said he doesn’t want people to become complacent when they see an AMBER Alert.
“Now, as a local police chief, it probably benefits us, but the program as a whole I would want to be careful that it didn’t turn into an every day thing,” he said. “It lessens the urgency of it.”
The public can sign up for AMBER Alerts on the ALEA website at www.alea.gov. The new guidelines can be found at www.amberalert.gov/guidelines.htm.