AMBER Alert Briefs – Issue 3 2019

Short News Clips on AMBER Alert & Child Protection Issues

Twenty years later for the child in the first successful AMBER Alert

Rae-Leigh Bradbury was eight-weeks-old when the first successful AMBER Alert was issued after she was taken by her babysitter in Arlington, Texas. She was found unharmed 13 hours later and her abductor served ten years in prison.

“That was the hardest 13 hours of my life ever,” said her mother Patricia A. Sokolowski. “The (detectives) came to me at about midnight and said ‘we’re going to activate an AMBER Alert. We haven’t used it, it’s the first time. We want it to work.’”

The emergency response system was put in place two years earlier after the disappearance of Amber Hagerman. Bradbury was given the Hope Award by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) on May 25. She says her experience inspired her to intern for NCMEC in Austin, Texas.

“There are kids right now not knowing where their parents are. I just can’t imagine wondering, ‘Where’s my mom? Where’s my dad?’” said Bradbury.

Texas approves alerts for missing adults and mentally ill veterans

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that allows law enforcement to issue alerts for missing adults believed to be abducted or endangered. The CALE (Civilian Abduction or Life Endangerment) Alerts will send information about Texans between ages 18 and 65 through text messages and roadside signs.

The bill was pushed by Allison Steele after her daughter Cayley Mandadi was killed in 2017. The state didn’t issue an AMBER Alert because the victim was 19 years old. Virginia also issues alerts for missing adults between 18 and 65.

Governor Abbott also signed a law creating the Camo Alert, an AMBER-style alert that would be issued for missing military members with a mental illness who may be a danger to themselves or others. The Camo Alert will be part of a five-year pilot program beginning in September 2019, and expiring in 2023.

Two women seek to find missing people of color across the country

Natalie Wilson and her sister-in-law Derrica Wilson have been working since 2008 to make sure efforts are being made to find missing people of color. The Black and Missing Foundation helps families work with police and the media to make sure the public hear about their loved ones.

The two women were inspired to start the non-profit foundation after learning about the struggles the family of Tamika Huston had of getting media coverage after the young African-American woman went missing in 2004. Her remains were found a year later and her ex-boyfriend was sentenced to life in prison.

“We’re finding that when people of color, men and women, are reported missing, they’re deemed to be involved with some type of criminal act, they’re stereotyped, and their cases aren’t taken seriously,” said Natalie Wilson.

Massachusetts police warn of AMBER Alert ID kit scammers

Police in Malden, Massachusetts, issued a warning about a possible scam after learning a person was going door-to-door and asking homeowners if they ordered AMBER Alert ID Kits from the police union. After the warning was issued, police identified and questioned the man. The individual was working for a life insurance company and said he misspoke about being affiliated with a police organization. Police advised him to change his sales pitch.

Ohio A.G. releases missing children report

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yosi released a report for National Missing Children’s Day, documenting 25,619 people who went missing in the state in 2018–including 19,879 children. The report noted that 96.1 percent—or 19,510 children—were recovered safely by the end of the year.

Ohio had 19 attempted child abductions in 2018 involving 14 girls and five boys. About one-third of the suspects were driving vehicles and half of the incidents occurred while the children were walking to or from school.

AMBER Alert issued after mom forgets leaving her CHILDREN at daycare

Police in Waco, Texas, issued an AMBER Alert after a mother reported her three- and four-year-old daughters had been kidnapped by a man named “Chris.” As the investigation went on police discovered the mother forgot she left her children at a daycare center. Daycare workers took the children home after they were unable to contact the mother. Child Protective Services took custody of the children after they saw their living conditions.

Texas father charged for making false claim for AMBER Alert

Dallas police filed charges against a father for making a false report that prompted an AMBER Alert for his four-year-old son. The man claimed his child and car were taken from a parking lot. Police found the car three hours later and discovered later the boy had been with his mother the entire time.

Michigan woman gets probation for making up abduction

A Michigan mother was ordered to serve three years of probation for claiming her baby had been kidnapped, which sparked an AMBER Alert. The woman told police her car had been stolen with her 18-month-old daughter inside. Someone saw the alert and told police the child was safe with her father. The mother admitted to making up the story because of a dispute with the girl’s father.

Texas city installs mass notification warning system

Bowie, Texas, installed warning sirens on utility poles throughout the city to be used for emergency evacuations and AMBER Alerts. The $150,000 mass notification warning system replaced 10 sirens with four sirens that are more powerful than the originals. The system can include a pre-recorded message and can be focused on one or more specific areas.

Arizona sheriff hosts sex trafficking symposium

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department in Phoenix, Arizona, offered all county personnel, patrol deputies, correction officers, probation officers and other key stakeholders detailed instruction on how identify, recover and respond to victims of sex trafficking and to ensure traffickers face justice.

Cindy McCain, co-chair of the Arizona Trafficking Council and wife of the late U.S. Senator John McCain, was the first speaker at the Sex Trafficking Symposium held June 17, 2019.

The AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program provided experts to present on topics related to helping vulnerable victims of sex trafficking, including:

  • Warning signs of trafficking;
  • Investigative techniques; and
  • Developing a county-level response, to include identifying and recovering victims, and connecting them with advocacy and services.

During the event, a survivor of trafficking shared her story and spoke about her interaction with law enforcement and others, explaining the impact those interactions had on her.