USA: Why Michigan Amber Alerts are issued only in most serious abduction cases


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DETROIT – Why are Amber Alerts issued only in the most serious abduction cases?

Amber Alerts are only for abductions of children who are under 18 years old and are in danger. A vehicle license number is no longer required.

Amber Alerts are urgent bulletins that interrupt radio and television broadcasting and send wireless emergency alerts to cellphones.

Other cases use an endangered missing advisory, which has no age restriction and can be issued for children or adults. In those cases, law enforcement notifies the media about the missing person. Unlike during an Amber Alert, there is no emergency alert system to interrupt broadcasting on radio or television, and there is no alert sent to cellphones.

There are several different types of missing cases, including runaways and parental abductions. Each case is evaluated separately.

“That’s why it’s a hard job, and I get a lot of pressure to put an alert out on every kid that goes missing, but could you imagine just the volume of them that are going out?” Michigan State Police spokeswoman Sarah Krebs said. “We really have to have criteria in place to decide what ones get an alert and what ones do not.”

Krebs said parental abductions happen every day. She said that in those situations, there is a big difference between a parent who takes a child because they want parenting time with them and a parent who takes a child because they want to harm them. In a parental situation, an Amber Alert would be issued only if there is a threat to the child.

During an Amber Alert, personal cellphones receive alerts. Krebs said the alerts reach the general public, and often the people being sought, during a particular Amber Alert.

“Our suspects are getting that wireless alert,” Krebs said. “We have seen many children returned almost immediately after that wireless alert going out. The child is recovered, and it’s because it gets their attention, too. I think, sometimes, in the heat of the moment and the emotion of it, they don’t realize what a big deal this was until they get that Amber Alert on their phone.”

For more information on Michigan’s missing child alert policies, click here.

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