LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Amber Alert Plan is something that we hear about all the time, but how exactly does it work?
"Once we receive a call that there is a missing child, we try to get the age of the child and get that information to determine if they're under the age of 18," said Kristin Knox, Communications Specialist for the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department.
According to Knox, that search for information is where the process for an Amber Alert actually begins.
Created in 1996, the Amber Alert System acts as a tool, utilizing resources like digital billboards and push notifications on your phone to alert you when a child has been abducted.
With the tools available, a big question that tends to comes up is how much time must pass before the public can be notified?
Knox said it all depends on the information investigators have when the report is being written.
"We get their statement and try to create a timeline of the disappearance to see what exactly is going on to pinpoint if we can get like a car, or the suspects, or a license plate. Anything that could help us better find the child," Knox said.
At that point, local police departments turn that information over the Arkansas State Police (ASP) so they can activate the alert for a missing child or abduction.
"In very general terms, child abduction is the unauthorized taking of a child from a person with a right to custody by a person without a right of custody. The taking can be by force, enticement, luring, fraud or other means."
According to Arkansas State Police website, each situation has a minimum requirement that must be met before the alert can be considered.
Each of the requirements go as follows:
- There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an actual abduction has occurred.
- Law enforcement 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 abducted child is under 18 years of age.
- 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.
Once an Amber Alert has been authorized, officials then release information about the missing child, associated suspects, and means of transportation.
Authorities then work with the Arkansas Department of Transportation to provide suspect vehicle and license plate information that may be displayed on Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) maintained by ARDOT.
ASP also provides information that can be broadcasted in a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) in a text message format to wireless carriers, alerting people on their phones of the threat.
It's a tightknit sense of communication, which helps law enforcement agencies like the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department.
"We're allowed to get those alerts to blast that out through social media, to get assistance again from the citizens in hopes that somebody will see that alert," Knox said.
Authorities said that the Amber Alert System is not designed for every missing child and that there has to be some level of danger.
Authorities can issue what's called an Endangered Child Advisory for in the other cases.
The advisories are where they ask media to help in situations such as when a child wanders away from home.
For anyone interested in learning more about Amber Alerts in Arkansas, you can click here for more.