Alerts and what they mean: Highway patrol breaks down Amber Alert
JEFFERSON CITY - When it comes to missing people, the alerts sent out are just as unique as the situations themselves said the Missouri State Highway Patrol Thursday.
In the last week alone, mid-Missouri residents have experienced notifications for both Amber Alerts and endangered person advisories. So what's the difference? According to John Hotz, public information director for Missouri State Highway Patrol, the criteria between the two notifications is quite different.
The criteria for an Amber Alert is as follows:
- There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
- The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
- There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
- The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
- The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.
The criteria for an endangered person advisory is as follows:
- Do the circumstances fail to meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert?
- Is the person missing under unexplained, involuntary, or suspicious circumstances?
- Is the person believed to be in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions, in the company of a potentially dangerous person or some other factor that may put the person in peril?
According to Hotz, the two are often confused when Missourians are reporting a missing person.
"When there are custodial issues, people get those mixed up," Hotz said. "If there is a custodial issue but there is no danger to the child, then it is not going to meet that Amber Alert criteria. Now, we can still issue an endangered person advisory."
Criteria regarding age requirements is often cited for confusion as well. Amber Alerts can only be issued for someone who is 17 years old, or younger. For endangered person advisories however, there is no age requirement.
The process for filing either report begins with contacting local authorities. From there, law enforcement reviews the situation and notification criteria, in order to determine the situation's notification status. If determined to be an Amber Alert scenario, Missouri law enforcement then contact highway patrol by filling out the Amber Alert abduction form on the MSHP website.
Within 10 to 15 minutes of receiving the form, MSHP activates a statewide alert.
"Typically the Amber Alert will go out on a statewide base. If maybe they [law enforcement] think they are located in just one particular area, it is possible to send it out in a localized area," Hotz said.
In regard to the trends surrounding these notifications in Missouri, Hotz said it is hard to know for sure.
"Some years we may have 3 or 4, and then the next year 6. So it is really tough to say you know, there are certain trends."
Overall, when it comes to missing people, Hotz said contacting law enforcement as a soon as possible is one of the best steps to take.