Calhoun County, AL – The City of Jacksonville Police Department released information about a missing 15-year-old girl yesterday creating a lot of questions from the community. One of the more common questions posted on the official Jacksonville Police Facebook page was, “Why is she not listed as an Amber Alert?”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Amber Alert project started in 1996 when Dallas-Ft. Worth media had partnered with law enforcement to develop and early warning system to help locate abducted children. The program eventually spread across the county and was ultimately implemented by the Department of Justice being use as the central repository for releasing the alerts. Currently there are very strict guidelines that police departments must follow in order for an Amber Alert to be issued. The guidelines listed on the DOJ website are:
- There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
- The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
- There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
- The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
- The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.
The Amber Alert system is not used for children that run-away from home or may be missing but have no information or evidence of an actual abduction.
The Calhoun Journal spoke with Police Chief, Marcus Wood, who stated, “The reason that Amber Alerts are only used for abduction cases and not all reported missing children cases are so people won’t become desensitized to the alert tones on their mobile devises. There are a lot of parents that file a missing child report when they don’t come home on time or have snuck out of their homes to meet with friends. We will always take those reports and be on the lookout for the children, but if we were to use the Amber Alert system for those reasons, the alerts would happen so often people would stop taking them as the serious warning they are.”
Throughout the United States there is an average of 460,000 children reported missing each year. Approximately 99% of the reported cases resulted in the child’s return to their parents or caretaker after it was learned that they had run-away from home.
“When someone reports a missing child it is taken very seriously”, advised Chief Wood. He went on to explain that although they may not be entered into the Amber Alert system, they are entered into the law enforcement system so all officers in the area will be aware that the child is in fact missing. Local police departments also provide press releases and work with the media to share the information with the public and the surrounding communities so they can also keep their eyes on the lookout. Missing child cases do not expire and can only be closed when the child is located.