The retired sheriff who helped develop the Amber Alert system, which notifies the public of missing child cases, has some concerns with how those alerts are being sent out. For Dee Anderson, several recent cases in North Texas highlight the issues.
When Anderson was Tarrant County Sheriff, he led the search for Amber Hagerman. The Amber Alert was named in honor of the nine-year-old Arlington girl who was abducted and killed two decades ago.
"Obviously in child abduction situations, anybody who's an expert in the field tells you that not only minutes, but seconds count," said Anderson.
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Anderson is concerned about several recent missing child cases in which Amber Alerts were only issued hours after the child went missing, or the alerts themselves contained vague or incomplete information. They include the May kidnapping of a Fort Worth girl who was later found, and last week's disappearance of a Dallas boy who was found dead.
"It's been concerning, when you see the cases that we've had, the apparent confusion on the part of law enforcement trying to activate the alerts, not really knowing the proper procedures," he said.
"The big question on the delays is why? What would cause you to take hours for that decision."
In many cases, local or regional alerts are issued. When a two-year-old boy was reported missing in Denton this month, that was the case, within a few hours of the first report. In that case, no Amber Alert was issued. Denton police chief Frank Dixon explained that the case did not meet specific criteria required for an alert, one being that there was no suspected foul play. The boy was found dead the next day, inside a parked car.
Anderson believes the system may need an overhaul. He suggests more law enforcement training in both decision-making for issuing amber alerts, and procedures for making sure critical information gets out to the public.
"It's just a little frustrating having seen it developed here in our back yard and having helped develop it in our back yard," he said. "That people here in this area are apparently not very well-versed on how to use it very well and make the most of it."