Mandatory Reconstruction of Amber Alerts
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Too many times, children and teenagers who have gone missing do not have an Amber Alert issued.
Cases like Isabel Mercedes Celis, Ava Enlow, Jhessye Shockley, Max Hernandez, Gabriel Johnson, Kyron Horman, Chelsea King, Monte and Collin Walker did not either have an Amber Alert issued or the Amber Alert delay, by red-tape, miscommunication, or that the abduction doesn’t fit the criteria.
We have seen incidents where authorities felt that there was no need to issue an Amber Alert because missing child or teen did not fit a certain criteria, or they felt they did not have enough evidence to suggest that an alert needed or necessary.
However, when a parent states that their child is missing, it should be taken seriously, and not put off as a run-away. Time is of the Essence, when it comes to finding a missing child. It can mean the difference in finding a child dead or alive!
Some states have to go be tweens or liaisons, who decided if an Amber Alert merited, unfortunately, when time is of the essence, we do not have the luxury of red tape. It is naïve to think that there is a one-size fits all criteria, when it comes to abductions, when there is clearly different cases, with unique circumstances.
There contingency plans when certain issues come up, that allows for immediate response such as: Mental and Emotional state of the abductors or parent, potential harm or danger to the child, domestic violence history, and out-of-country flight risks, etc.
Too many times, we do not err on the side of caution, and we end up with a tragic ending, what is worse is we cannot honestly say everything done to curb what happened.
If a simple Amber Alert issued, at the time of the disappearance, it may have stopped these events from unfolding in the manner in which they had. The Amber Alert is a tool, which needs be fully utilized in a more effective manner by law enforcement. We prefer law enforcement to err on the side of caution than to stand by, and not enact in a timely manner.
However, there is something disturbing the public and national communities do not know that the Amber Alert is missing:
1) It is voluntary: Once law enforcement determines that, a child been abducted by the criteria, not only law enforcement has, but also that it meets the Amber Alert criteria, then an alert issued. Law Enforcement can pick which cases they feel fit into the “criteria” and which do not. We feel that time is of the essence, send out the alert and then if it is falsely done, hold the person responsible for the false report, especially if it done with malicious intent.
2) Parental Abductions, fall under a certain criteria and not considered as pressing, since the child is with a parental unit and secondly it falls under the court’s jurisdiction. However, there have been several cases where intervention needed through an Amber Alert, because an unstable, parent involved and they ended up harming the child or escaped out of the country with the child. The time it took to untangle the red tape, ultimately cost the child, either by being lost, or being killed, by the parent who abducted the child.
3) CARD (Child Abduction Rapid Deployment) and CART (Child Abduction Response Teams) work under the Amber Alert criteria(s) with law enforcement, the FBI, and other organizations. However, the criteria fall short when it comes to parental abduction. There is not a real rapid response for parental abduction; it gummed up in the court proceedings and criteria. We need to err on the side of caution, when it comes to any abduction, however, when it is a parental abduction, the alert needs be issued, and once the child recovered, place the child in a safety zone with a neutral party until the courts sort out which parent is the responsible, and sane party.
4) We need Preventative Care in divorce cases, domestic violence cases, in which risk evaluations done with clinical psychologists with casework. It not a cure-all; however, it is preventative care, to identify “at risk” cases.
How Amber Alerts work…Once law enforcement determines that a child abducted and the abduction meets AMBER Alert criteria, law enforcement issues an AMBER Alert and notifies broadcasters and state transportation officials.
Each state AMBER Alert plan has its own criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts.
The PROTECT Act, passed in 2003, which established the role of AMBER Alert Coordinator within the Department of Justice (DOJ), calls for DOJ to issue minimum standards or guidelines for AMBER Alerts that states can adopt voluntarily. DOJ's guidance on criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts is:
1.) Law enforcement must confirm that abduction has taken place.
2.) The child is at risk of serious injury or death.
3.) There is sufficient descriptive information of child, captor, or captor's vehicle to issue an alert.
4.) The child be 17 years old or younger.
5.) It recommended that immediate entry of AMBER Alert data be entered in FBI's National Crime Information Center. Text information describing the circumstances surrounding abductions the child be entered, and the case flagged as Child Abduction.
Too many children that are dead or missing today fit the criteria and authorities refused to issue Amber Alert, when they should have. Most state's guidelines adhere closely to DOJ's recommended guidelines. However, there are conflicts in criteria regarding parental abduction, and missing children.
We know that AMBER Alerts need be issued across state and jurisdictional lines.
Yes, many states have formal memorandums of understanding with other states and there are currently 28 regional plans. If law enforcement has reason to believe that the child been taken across state lines, the AMBER state coordinator will ask that state to issue an alert. Many states have informal agreements with other states to issue AMBER Alerts upon request.
Unfortunately, we have seen break downs in which Amber Alerts aren’t issued in a timely, effective manner, because they are trying to determine what criteria the child and abductors fall under. When it comes to a child’s welfare and safety, there not any criteria to wait for, except that the child needs protection. Approximately 70 percent of law enforcement agencies do not have written guidelines on how to respond to family abduction.
We propose that national guidelines need be adopted, to make amber alerts mandatory rather than voluntary. Where there is a comprehensive, clear, concise criterion to enact upon when there is a missing child, a prenatally abducted child, etc.
We need to streamline the processes especially when lives are at stake. Once the child is safely in custody then law enforcement and courts can untangle, what is what.
The UNIFORM CHILD ABDUCTION PREVENTION ACT has criteria that be utilized with the Amber Alert.
If for any reason, lawmakers feel that the criteria(s) are too dissimilar to include parental abduction in the Amber Alert criteria, then we formally ask that they enact a similar alert for at risk children from parental abduction.
Many believe that a child is not in grave danger if the abductors is a family member.
Unfortunately, this is not true, and these assumptions continue to endanger our children’s lives. Research shows that the most common motive in family abductions was not love for the child but rather an act of anger and revenge against the other parent. More than half of abducting parents have a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, mental issues, or a criminal record. Physical and sexual abuse can and does occur during these abductions.
The overwhelming majority of family abduction cases involve families undergoing custody dispute, however there is the darker side also, where it involves a break down and the parent taking the child, using them as a weapon to inflict pain.
Children remain at risk of family abduction for up to five years following a divorce.
Since more than 1 million children have parents going through divorce every year, at any given point there are up to 5 million children at risk of family abduction.
A steady increase in divorce rates, makes the case load for family court professionals, including custody counselors and evaluators, family therapists, and welfare workers, overwhelming. It is difficult to step in and prevent what is a very preventable tragedy. Due to the lack of criteria, the lack of laws, to place a child in a “safety zone” until a clinical evaluation done, until the courts can decide which custody agreement fits circumstance the divorce and the mental state of the parents, are fit to have the child in their care.
It is extremely important to have a line of defense when a child taken, by a parental abductors, a predator, or is simply missing. Just think of how many children would be alive or found today if politics and red tape did not get in the way.
Jessica’s Law Now is asking you to join in with us to make a positive difference for the safety and welfare of our children.
By signing our Petition, we are asking President Obama, Congress and United States Senate make Amber Alerts Mandatory under national guidelines, to streamline the processes in order to get Alerts out in a timely manner, and include parental abduction in the categories and criteria of a National Amber Alert System. Once the guidelines are uniform and comprehensive, and governed through a national system, we hope to cut down on incidents of children being abducted and murdered by their parent or the person who adducts them. Our concern is the safety of the child and to find them once they go missing. It is past time to cut through the red tape and bureaucracy, please lend your name to the petition, for change!
Jessica’s Law Now