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AMBER Alert system activated in rare cases, specific criteria required

Questions about the system are sparked after child goes missing in Lubbock County with no alert issued
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 10:19 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2021 at 10:54 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - It’s hard to miss an AMBER Alert. Phone users know exactly what that loud, blaring notification means. But they don’t come often. In fact, there are generally less than 200 nationwide alerts each year.

Authorities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area created the system in 1996, teaming up with broadcasters to help find missing kids.

Since then, through July of this year, more than 1,074 children have been safely returned home.

Sgt. Johnny Bures with the Department of Public Safety says it’s a vital tool.

“It’s typically pretty fast. Because as soon as that law enforcement agency receives that information, they call into DPS. Austin, they give that information out to the folks out there... making sure they give all the information, details, descriptions they can so we can share that,” Bures said.

After that, TxDOT updates its dynamic message boards along highways across the state. They also show updates on major crashes, construction, and anything that disrupts the normal flow of traffic locally, but they don’t use the system for missing children reports that aren’t AMBER Alerts.

Earlier this week, the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office requested an AMBER Alert for 7-year-old Addilynn Carter.

READ MORE: 7-year-old Lubbock girl found safe after Amber Alert issued, caretaker arrested on charges of kidnapping

It’s unclear when exactly the decision was made in this case, but, nine hours after LCSO shared the information online, she was found and the request was still awaiting approval. It’s also unclear why the request was not approved in that time frame, but Sgt. Bures says there are strict guidelines.

“There are certain criteria that has to be met before we issue a statewide AMBER Alert,” he said.

In Texas that criteria includes:

• Child is under the age of 17

• Authorities believe there is a credible threat to the child’s safety

• Alternative explanations for a disappearance can be ruled out

• There is sufficient information to help the public locate the child

“The biggest thing is, we don’t want to put out misinformation. We’d hate for someone to put out a wrong name or wrong information and people start looking in the wrong area or for the wrong kiddo. We really want to make sure that we have everything correct before we put that out there,” Bures said.

It is a tricky situation, though, as law enforcement still has to act fast.

“It is timely. Time is very critical in this, because we have kiddos that are missing,” he said.

He says it’s better nowadays, because in addition to AMBER Alerts, they have social media where it is easier to share information such as missing children reports.

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