SUMMIT COUNTY – The Amber Alert system, which lets the community know when a child has been abducted, is coming to Summit County. Recently approved at the state level, the program uses local television and radio broadcasts to get the word out as soon as the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) confirms that a child has been abducted.
The Summit County sheriff, town police chiefs and local television and radio stations are working on the logistics of the plan and hope to have it in place at the end of August.
Sheriff Joe Morales said Amber Alert will be an “effective tool” in the event of a child’s disappearance.
“The community becomes the eyes and ears,” said Morales. “Rather than just a dozen officers, you’ve got a thousand people on the lookout.”
Broadcasts would include a description of the missing child, where he or she was last seen and with whom.
But the CBI must first confirm that the case meets certain criteria. The child must be 17 or younger, local police must have a good description of the child’s clothes, and the case must be confirmed an abduction, not a domestic dispute or missing person case.
Once confirmed an abduction, the CBI alerts KOA, the state’s designated emergency alert system. That alert then is issued to broadcast and cable media throughout the state, the same way a weather bulletin would be sent.
“Time is of the essence when a child is missing,” said Morales. “Using broadcasts can get the word out fast, especially radio broadcasts that can be interrupted immediately.”
The Colorado Broadcasters Association was involved in encouraging the state legislature to adopt Amber Alert. Based in Breckenridge, the association represents radio and television stations.
“In light of all the terrible cases, especially in the last two months, there’s obviously a need,” said Marilyn Hogan, Colorado Broadcasters Association president. “This is a more structured way for police to alert the community quickly.”
Amber Alert, which has been adopted in 41 modified versions at state, local and regional levels, was named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year old who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas, in 1996. It has been credited with the recovery of 17 children, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
That organization’s web site said 725,000 children were reported missing in the United States in 2001, with parental abductions and runaways making up the vast majority of cases.
The recent abductions of Samantha Runnion and Elizabeth Smart, the 14-year-old who was abducted from her Salt Lake City home, were random crimes, however.
“Generally, random crime cases are fairly rare,” said Morales.
“There’s no community that’s more or less safe than others. Abduction is a concern anywhere – kids tend of be trusting of adults.”
In Summit County, the number of events involving kids is a special concern, said Morales. Local police are active in putting out information to parents on keeping kids safe.
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