The Oh Really Factor

When a child is reported missing, what factors should determine how law enforcement reacts or how much the general public cares? Most of you would probably say it doesn’t matter, just find the child. You may even be offended if you thought for a moment any of these may impact the decision to get involved or officially begin search efforts.

  1. child’s age
  2. race
  3. religion
  4. type of abduction- custodial dispute or family abduction
  5. history of running away
  6. lifestyle- substance abuse or promiscuity

If you speak with parents of missing children you may be surprised to learn many felt they were factors in the initial discussions with first responders. When their child was first reported missing many believe one of the obstacles they initially faced was having to explain why they shouldn’t be.

The National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 requires each federal, state, and local law-enforcement agency to enter information about missing children younger than the age of 18 into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. The AMBER Alert site recommends authorities immediately enter AMBER Alert data into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system. 

A quick glance at the AMBER Alert criteria automatically disqualifies most children from being eligible for an activation.

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.

The AMBER ALERT is not intended for cases involving runaways or parental abduction, except in life-threatening situations. In some cases a spouse or relative has been murdered in the course of the abduction yet an Alert wasn’t issued because the child was not believed to be in danger.

Some other factors from various States AMBER Alert plans for consideration concern the abductor:

  1. Has the child ever been abused physically or sexually by this person?
  2. Has the abductor threatened the child with bodily harm or death?
  3. Is the abductor an abuser of alcohol or drugs?
  4. Was the person under the influence of alcohol or other substance when the child was abducted?
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