AL changes AMBER Alert policy after child in stolen car doesn't - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

AL changes AMBER Alert policy after child in stolen car doesn't meet criteria

(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Following several tense hours late Wednesday night by Bessemer police to find a stolen vehicle with a child inside, the boy was found safe.

But public outcry over why an AMBER Alert wasn't issued has now led to a statewide change in procedure at the direction of Gov. Kay Ivey.

Bessemer police asked the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to issue an AMBER Alert for the child an hour and forty minutes after the vehicle was stolen, but ALEA's hands were tied for that type of alert because there are very specific criteria that have to be met for one to be issued.

Instead, ALEA issued an Emergency Missing Child Alert because state requirement were that an "abduction" has to take place for an AMBER Alert call to be made.

“With the previous guidelines, that did not reach the threshold to issue an AMBER Alert, and we issued a missing person alert so that goes out to the same news media and marketing except phones and the board to see on the interstate,” Hal Taylor, Acting Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. 

Here's how ALEA made Wednesday night's decision, based on policies that are now changed.

The incident met the criteria for an Emergency Missing Child Alert which include:

  • Law enforcement believed a child was missing
  • Law Enforcement reasonably believed that child was in danger
  • There was sufficient information available to help locate that child

The criteria for an AMBER Alert requires that:

  • A child has been ABDUCTED as defined by 13A-6-40 of the Alabama Criminal Code
  • The child is at risk of serious bodily harm or death
  • There is enough descriptive information about the child, abductor, and/or suspect’s vehicle to give the media to help locate that child. 

"Our guidelines now are followed by the Department of Justice, the federal agency, and it gives us a little bit more flexibility as to when and what information we have and use that information to issue an AMBER Alert,” said Secretary Taylor. 

After a review, Ivey asked Taylor to revise the state’s AMBER Alert Guidelines to remove “abduction” as a requirement for an AMBER Alert to be issued.  That policy change takes effect immediately, bringing Alabama in line with the U.S. Department of Justice’s recommended criteria for an AMBER Alert.

“We need to protect the children of our state. Though we pray that an AMBER Alert is never needed, I asked Secretary Taylor to broaden the scope of our AMBER Alert requirements to safeguard as many children as possible,” Ivey said. “This change today ensures that we are keeping the public better informed. AMBER Alerts give all Alabamians the opportunity to be involved in caring for our most vulnerable asset, our children.” 

Ivey's office said it expects to see more AMBER Alerts issued in the wake of this change, which her office believes "will insure that missing children are found more quickly due to the public’s having been informed about a child’s disappearance."

Whenever a local law enforcement agency believes an AMBER Alert may be needed, it should immediately contact the 24-hour Alabama Missing Person’s Hotline at (800) 228-7688. The public may sign up for AMBER Alerts on the ALEA web site at www.alea.gov. The new guidelines can be found at www.amberalert.gov/guidelines.htm.

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