SAFETY

What are the criteria for an AMBER Alert?

Dec 13, 2021, 12:10 PM
File photo...
File photo

SALT LAKE CITY — Some Utahns, including a state senator, are questioning the process for issuing an AMBER Alert after one was issued for four South Jordan girls Sunday. 

Sen. Todd Weiler (R-UT) caught some flak after tweeting about the circumstances of the alert, saying the statewide system should not be used for custody matters between separated parents. 

Many came to the defense of the AMBER Alert system on the social media platform. A few pointed out the criteria for the alert are strict and involve more than someone having physical custody of a child without the permission of the other parent. 

So, what are the criteria? 

The Department of Public Safety, the state agency tasked with issuing the alerts to the entire state, says a case must meet all of the following criteria: 

Utah’s criteria for an AMBER Alert:

  • Law enforcement believes a child or children have been abducted
  • The child or children are 17 years old or younger
  • Law enforcement believes the victim(s) face imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death
  • There is information that could assist the public in the safe recovery of the victim or apprehension of a suspect

Furthermore, DPS spokesperson Joe Dougherty told KSL TV they do not make the decision alone to issue an alert. Instead, he said police agencies approach them with cases they believe deserve an AMBER Alert.

That then leads to conversations about whether the situation meets all four criteria. 

Some children wander away in a crowded grocery store, others might run off after a heated argument. When a child is missing, law enforcement can act swiftly to help recover the child, by developing search and rescue teams or by bringing dogs to the scene to track the scent for example. AMBER Alert is only one tool that law enforcement can use to find abducted children. AMBER Alerts should be reserved for those cases that meet the AMBER criteria. Overuse of AMBER Alert could result in the public becoming desensitized to Alerts when they are issued.” – Department of Public Safety website.  

Dougherty said the AMBER Alert system in Utah is effective and has helped reunite several families. 

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What are the criteria for an AMBER Alert?