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How Police Handle Amber Alerts

Many viewers were asking why State Police did not put out an Amber Alert lastnight. Crispin Haven explains why.

It’s certainly a cause for alarm when you see a child has disappeared or was abducted. But what level of response?

Law enforcement takes depends on the situation. The most common one we all know is the Amber Alert, which was rolled out nationwide in the early 2000s after a nine year old Texas girl by the name of Amber Hagerman was found

dead four days after she disappeared.

Her case is still unsolved to this day. The program distributes alerts to TV, radio and other systems, relaying pertinent information about a missing child.

So why wasn’t one issued Tuesday when a one year old in Johnstown went missing, even though Johnstown police said it was an abduction?

Instead, we got what state police called a missing endangered person advisory. Well, it comes down to specific criteria and threshold needed to put out an amber alert. State police says that for an amber alert to be issued,
the following must be true.

The abducted child must be under 18 years of age, and the abducted child is believed to be in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. Additional factors, they say are considered in the decision making process include the availability of descriptive information which could assist in the recovery of the child.

Time elapsed since the child was last seen in reliability of any witnesses in this case, based upon what state police put out last night. The second part was not true, say police only said the child was at special risk of harm or injury, not imminent, danger of death or seriously bodily harm.

They police say they use Amber Alerts judiciously so that Amber Alerts are only used in appropriate cases to avoid overusing the system and limiting its effectiveness.

That’s where the missing Endangered Person Advisory comes in. State Police’s criteria for that include the incident circumstances do not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert, and the person or persons are missing under an unexplained, involuntary or suspicious circumstances or the person’s age. Health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions places the missing person in peril of serious bodily injury or death, and if the information is distributed to the public, it could assist in their safe recovery.

Other relevant factors for this include the quality and quantity of descriptive information available, the time elapsed since last seen and reliability of witnesses.

State police say regardless of which is in effect, time is critical in preventing harm to an abducted child.

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