Thursday, February 20, 2014

Outside Lights for Hailey

It's every parents worst nightmare. Their child is missing. I know this happens a lot in this country, but this time it was close to home. A 10 year old girl was taken off the streets in broad daylight. There were witnesses that chased the suspect down the street and one witness took after the suspect in his car, but lost the suspect while going through rush hour traffic. 

Hailey was walking along the street when a man in a truck called her over, talked to her, then grabbed her and put her in the truck, then drove away. Hailey's mother told police that she has no idea who the man was. That is when I noticed the locals were blowing up FaceBook with missing child alerts, but no Amber Alert has been triggered. It was almost two hours later that the Amber Alert was released and our phones started going crazy with what I think, is the most annoying noise ever. This got me thinking of what the protocol is for an Amber Alert. There has to be an operating procedure for an actual Amber Alert to be activated. There has to be a protocol for getting all the information needed to make sure this is not a false alarm, and not just a joint custody dispute. Is the child really in danger, or is a parent just mad at the other parent?

This brings up a great point that how long can this process take? This time, it took two hours to gather the information and it was too late for this little girl. The damage had already been done, and my heart breaks thinking of what really happened to Hailey.

Here is what the national Amber Alert guidelines state: (from
Every successful AMBER plan contains clearly defined activation criteria. The following guidance is designed to achieve a uniform, interoperable network of plans across the country, and to minimize potentially deadly delays because of confusion among varying jurisdictions. The following are criteria recommendations:

Law Enforcement Confirms an Abduction

AMBER plans require law enforcement to confirm an abduction prior to issuing an alert. This is essential when determining the level of risk to the child. Clearly, stranger abductions are the most dangerous for children and thus are primary to the mission of an AMBER Alert. To allow activations in the absence of significant information that an abduction has occurred could lead to abuse of the system and ultimately weaken its effectiveness. At the same time, each case must be appraised on its own merits and a judgment call made quickly. Law enforcement must understand that a “best judgment” approach, based on the evidence, is appropriate and necessary.

Risk of Serious Bodily Injury or Death

Plans require a child be at risk for serious bodily harm or death before an alert can be issued. This element is clearly related to law enforcement’s recognition that stranger abductions represent the greatest danger to children. The need for timely, accurate information based on strict and clearly understood criteria is critical, again keeping in mind the “best judgment” approach.

Sufficient Descriptive Information

For an AMBER Alert to be effective in recovering a missing child, the law enforcement agency must have enough information to believe that an immediate broadcast to the public will enhance the efforts of law enforcement to locate the child and apprehend the suspect. This element requires as much descriptive information as possible about the abducted child and the abduction, as well as descriptive information about the suspect and the suspect’s vehicle. Issuing alerts in the absence of significant information that an abduction has occurred could lead to abuse of the system and ultimately weaken its effectiveness.

Age of Child

Every state adopt the “17 years of age or younger” standard; or, at a minimum, agree to honor the request of any other state to issue an AMBER Alert, even if the case does not meet the responding state’s age criterion, as long as it meets the age criterion of the requesting state. Most AMBER plans call for activation of the alert for children under a certain age. The problem is that age can vary---some plans specify 10, some 12, some 14, 15, and 16. Differences in age requirements create confusion when an activation requires multiple alerts across states and jurisdictions. Overuse of the AMBER Alert system will undermine its effectiveness as a tool for recovering abducted children.

NCIC Data Entry

Immediately enter AMBER Alert data into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.  Text information describing the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the child should be entered, and the case flagged as a Child Abduction. Many plans do not mandate entry of the data into NCIC, but this omission undermines the entire mission of the AMBER Alert initiative. The notation on the entry should be sufficient to explain the circumstances of the disappearance of the child. Entry of the alert data into NCIC expands the search for an abducted child from the local, state, or regional level to the national. This is a critical element of any effective AMBER Alert plan.

Here it is. There are crazy people all around the world. There are sick people that do twisted things and there is not much we can to to stop it. The key is education. I am in no way blaming the parents or the school system for not educating children about talking with people they do not know. I do not blame the Amber Alert system either. I blame the suspect, which has been caught and charged accordingly. Am I mad? Yes! Very angry, but anger gets us nowhere. The suspect will get what's coming to him and it is such a shame that this happened.

There is a FaceBook page that people all around the world have heard about this nightmare and are leaving porch lights on for Hailey. I am drawn to this community and I will be keeping mine on over the next week. Here is the link to anyone that wants to share and join in on the memorial to this little girl:

Over the next week I will be posting information on child safety and I would urge everyone to do their own research. It could have been anyone's child. It could have been my child and that scares the crap out of me. Feel free to follow me at and I can be found on Twitter as well @dadsdenjames.

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