When a child goes missing, the clock starts ticking. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tells us within hours, often times missing children have been murdered. We wanted to take a closer look at the most well known alert system, the Amber Alert, and see where it could be falling short.
When Naomi Jones went missing, a large response from local, state and federal law enforcement followed, but they were too late. According to records from law enforcement, she was killed within hours. She didn’t qualify for an Amber Alert, like many other children who go missing. That’s proof, Naomi’s mother says, a new alert is needed.
“Even though I knew the reality of most cases like that, not my child,” Shantara Hurry said of Naomi’s initial disappearance. “I feel like it could never happen to me. Never say never.”
Jones was murdered in June 2017. She was missing for five days before her body was found. An Amber Alert was not issued because there was not enough information about the abduction.
“I thank God for the Amber Alert but there needs to be something else that they have,” Hurry said.
She suggests new legislation similar to Alabama’s Hiawayi Robinson Law. She wants an alert issued directly when the criteria is not met.
“I feel like as soon as there is a call made to 911 we need to make up another alert,” Hurry said. “Me personally, I would call it the Naomi Alert.”
Representative Bradley Byrne, who serves on the Education and Workforce Committee, has some jurisdiction over the Missing and Exploited Children Act.
“A young person kidnaped in Florida can move to Alabama, Mississippi,” said Byrne. “So, the gaps are gaps in communication.”
He believes funding is the solution for aggressively searching for missing kids.
“What I want to make sure we do for this mother, and this family, and many other families that we have is strengthen and reauthorize the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is what we do at the national level.”
We reached out to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to ask about Amber Alerts and if they think some sort of change would help find more children.
“The effectiveness of these alerts are the amount of information that can be shared with the public, which is why these alerts are successful,” said Robert Lowery, Vice President of the Missing Children division. “Typically, just the description of the child doesn’t always mean that we… that there’s enough to share.”
Hurry believes alerting the public to what authorities do have is even more important.
“When a child goes missing, it doesn’t matter, they should be first priority,” Hurry said. “They should be first priority.”
To learn more about children missing in our area, click HERE.