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Aug-11-2011 16:35printcomments

The Amber Alert has Become a Government Money Tool

I suggest we reinvent this idea.

Amber Alert

(SALEM, Ore.) - I've known for some time that I needed to express my accumulation of not-so-positive thoughts on the Amber Alert system and the horrific joke is has become in our society.

By this point many people already know about the three-year old Missouri girl, Breeann Rodriguez, who disappeared Saturday while riding her bicycle near her family's home. As if that isn't shocking enough, this little Hispanic girl was not the subject of an Amber Alert, it leaves many people scratching their heads.

One after another, almost every single time with few exceptions, these alerts are issued only when one or more of the parties are tied to public welfare support. In other words, the system isn't about reclaiming kids, it is about being sure deadbeat parents are arrested because the respective state governments have money on the line.

And before we go another step, it is very important to note that there are many so-called 'parent-child abduction' cases where the parent the police seek is saving the child from an abusive spouse that a court order demanded have custody. That is a sad fact that I have personally witnessed right here in Oregon in a case involving a family member.

There is little good sense in our courtrooms that depend on testimony from Child Protection workers so frequently accused of being overzealous in their pursuits which when effective, literally dissolve American families over an innuendo or over something like marijuana use. When the police or other investigators involved run out of evidence, they seize kids over people having a "dirty house" which is a debatable notion. The bottom line is that states use via Amber Alert to find kids when have money on the line.

I remember so many times when people were missing and police in different places where I have lived and worked on the west coast refused to communicate the situation to media, thus denying the most effective possible means of rescuing and saving abducted kids by simply getting their description out. Indeed, Amber Alerts are only issued when a known car and license plate number are involved. So, the slightly more thought out child abductions; where a suspect is not outwardly observed loading the kid into a car, are off the radar.

And another thing that riles me about this as a news editor who potentially can publish items to help locate missing kids, is how police and the Amber Alert people put minimal effort out with regard to images. It isn't unusual for Amber Alert to send out an image that is barely 100 dpi in width, tiny grainy images that are hard to see at all. Or, they send no image at all and then someone like me has to track down the photos through the police agency, which is fine, I don't mind, but other journalists will drop the ball, they need to be spoon fed, and that is the job of the police and Amber Alert.

I suggest we reinvent this idea.

Regarding Breeann Rodriguez, authorities say they have now located two pieces of physical evidence and they told CNN that "the evidence is a bad sign for the investigation".

An Amber Alert should have been issued within twenty minutes of this taking place. Cops have MDT's (mobile data terminals) and they can haul ass to abduction scenes and protocol should be for the officer(s) to get more than one image of the child from the family, and take them to their car laptops and scan them and immediately send them out, particularly to TV and Internet media, and do everything humanly possible as quickly as possible, using the media, to locate and recover these poor children. Those abducted by parents (even parents with terrible criminal records) almost ALWAYS are recovered without injury, the parents should not be the top priority.

Tim King: Editor and Writer Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 82 writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address:

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Robert August 15, 2011 8:47 am (Pacific time)

Extremely poorly written article. Any good program should be free for criticicm and improvement, but it needs to be constructive criticism coming from an understanding of what the program is intended to do, how it developed and what it does.

Tim King: That sure doesn't do much for the helpless victims, now does it?

While your criticism are your own opinion, you understand none of the criteria, the limitations of the police, the legal requirements, the program restrictions or the difficulty in getting accurate information.

Editor: Nor do I care, I just believed there was more sincerity in this deal.  I know the system from a working journalist's point of view, and if  aren't smart enough to tally the value of that, then I can't help you.  I know when they come out, what they say, and how frustrated people are by the design of this seemingly well intended program.  Tell it to the committee, or the sub committees....

As a result, aside from the comment about getting better pictures, the whol article is tripe.

Editor: Well you may opine that, but the article was a release of years of experience dealing with it.

The average time to confirm that a child has been abducted, check that they are in danger, confirm the details of the incident and get the information out to the media takes hours. Not minutes.

Editor: You are making bad excuses, there are cops who can turn these around like lightning, time is precious and vital during these events, if it takes hours then somebody is failing in their job.  This is EXACTLY why Adam Walsh died, and I do know his father. .

 One of the biggest criticisms of the Amber Alert program is that the information wasn't checked and confirmed and led to a false alert and loss in faith in the program. Therefore, due to considerable experience and feedback, the police must take a little while longer to confirm. Now you want all that feedback thrown out and issue alerts fast.

Editor:Well I wish LE was in that mode of thinking more often, that is when they act in haste and blow 'the wrong suspect' away, as they did in Arizona recently.  

By the way, in all the years I have spent training people on Amber Alerts, the issues of money and tracking parents has never been mentioned, brought up, or discussed. I would love to find one person involved with Amber Alert anywhere in North America who will confirm your comments are valid.

Editor: I will work on it.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that nearly each and every case has a state revenue line connected to it.  So am I to gather that this system was built to favor accuracy?  So the fate of the child is reduced when you can't easily glean the information?  The police would rather have a 'good record' than chase a few bad leads?  Police spend their time on nickel and dime crime in this city, they follow drivers who are poor, minority, all of the same garbage that has plagued police in this country.  

As a result, I would listen to ANYONE else's suggestions for improving Amber Alert, but not from somneone speaking out of total ignorance.

Editor: Well you represent the government, so I suspect people have even less faith in your arm flailing 

Anonymous August 14, 2011 12:01 pm (Pacific time)

This story completely ignores the rules for issuing an Amber Alert. The alert is not issued unless there is a known abduction, there is a name or description of the abductor, and a description of a vehicle used in the abduction. In the non-custodial parent abductions, this information is available. Research the Amber Alert qualifications in your state, Tim. Shame on you for weaving this tale of conspiratorial nonsense! If an Amber Alert was issued for every child "missing" for a few hours, we would be bombarded with them, and they would lose their importance and sense of urgency.

Tim King: I don't think you really want to do this...Never in history has such a system been so disproportionately funded.  Never have values and technology stood in such stark contradiction.  I'm sure you mean well, and that you are also offended because your life is tied to this thing.  I liked it when it came out, I became frustrated over the years by the lack of effort and apparent shifting of purpose.  I believe Amber Alert is very deceptive.  It offers false faith that most people who were truly victimized will never be able to utilize.  

Just because the legal and justice systems are locked in holes does not mean they are correct, or adequate or efficient.  I wish it was different, there are very few serious child abductions, really... and you suggest that I should be ashamed for caring about this... I don't think you mean that... and I'm curious what you know about the parents of missing kids, if you have had to be around them and feel their pain.  As a reporter I have, many times.... and it is tragic.  

How about the way LE can use Homeland Security rules to monitor my cell phone but they can't/won't use cell phones to triangulate the positions of missing people?  The system is missing the mark, sadly, but then when you make marijuana the subject of law enforcement's existence, what would one expect?  The backward laws of the U.S. make children suffer.  This is a land of sad and twisted priorities.

I'm also the writer who suggests that a $20k reward be placed on the head of each and every single person wanted for Murder- an idea that the greedy SOB's running this country would never agree to.  

robinson valadez August 13, 2011 12:21 pm (Pacific time)

this is one item we can share with the london police to control riots missing children never found like nazi camps that way they will not multiply

COLLI August 11, 2011 9:09 pm (Pacific time)

What you suggest is common sense Tim. It may be that fact alone pinpoints the problem with the way things are being done now. Common sense is not currently being applied (in too many cases) but focus is being placed on potentially recouping monies lost by the various states involved. Maybe it is time to publish the names of all the Chiefs of Police when the various departments fail to use common sense and feed the names and photos to responsible journalists and journalistic outlets.

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