EL PASO, Texas – The El Paso Police Department is being credited with helping recently expand the Amber Alert program into Mexico.
Amber Alerts allow for cross-border communication between law enforcement, the media and wireless providers to help find missing children.
The collaboration that led to “Alerta Amber Mexico” is already paying dividends for El Paso Police. It helped solve the case last week of the boy allegedly left in Juarez by his mother for more than three months.
“Your city was at the very front end of that in making this happen,” said Jim Walters, program administrator for Amber Alert with the U.S. Department of Justice, who indicated the El Paso Police Department deserves as much credit as anyone for helping expand the program across the border. “The very first meeting that we ever did to plan this program in Mexico was held in El Paso on Valentine’s Day 2012. It was hosted by the El Paso Police Department.”
Authorities from both sides of the border have met several times since then, culminating with a meeting in Mexico City last month. Sgt. Karen Kozak from EPPD was there. She’s the regional coordinator for the Texas/Mexico Amber Alert program.
“Mexico is the No. 1 destination for international abductions of U.S. children,” Walters said. “And the U.S. is the No. 1 destination for the abduction of Mexican children. The vast majority of those are parental abductions.”
This latest coordination between authorities in Mexico and the United States proved key just last week, not in the case of a missing child, but in the case of a missing parent, of a four year-old boy who was found in Juarez.
“This was not an Amber Alert, but the information came to her from an Amber conference,” EPPD spokesman Darrel Petry told ABC-7. “Once Sgt. Kozak got back to El Paso, she was able to start working with law enforcement and officials in Juarez to give as much information about what they had in regards to the case.”
After releasing a picture of the boy to the media last week, police said their phones began ringing.
“It was almost immediately,” Petry said, “phone calls started coming in almost immediately. I mean, it was great.”
One of those callers was the boy’s mother, Ruby Esmeralda Gonzalez, who told police her son had been kidnapped. But investigators found otherwise.
“Alerta Amber Mexico” links the six Mexican border states to the four U.S. border states, including Texas.
Petry said the hope is to eventually expand the Amber Alert program for missing children to other countries.