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Amber Alerts Not For Every Missing Child

Commercial Mobile Alert System. An example of an AMBER Alert sent to a smart phone.

The recent case of two missing children from Washington has raised fresh questions about the Amber Alert system. The brother and sister from Pierce County were located and are safe, but their disappearance did not trigger an Amber Alert.

The siblings were allegedly taken by their mother who has supervised visitation rights, but not custody. Family members reported the mother might be suicidal. Police considered the children endangered and in the past might have issued an Amber Alert that would have flashed across TV screens, radios, cell phones and highway billboards.

But Bob Calkins with the Washington State Patrol says now there’s another option.

“We would like to see the Amber Alert reserved for those most egregious cases where we know a child is in extreme danger.”

Like the recent case of Hannah Anderson who was rescued in the mountains of Idaho after being abducted California.

Police in Washington now have an option that’s one step short of an Amber Alert. It’s called an Endangered Missing Person Advisory. It allows for some, but not all, of the Amber Alert notifications to be used. As of now Oregon and Idaho do not have this additional option.

On the Web:

Endangered Missing Person Advisory - Washington State Patrol
AMBER Alert - US Department of Justice

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."