What Qualifies for an Amber Alert?
Community wonders after young man was missing
ANCHORAGE - Many in the community have asked why authorities didn’t activate the Amber Alert system in the search for the 11-year-old missing Anchorage boy, found Wednesday afternoon.
Anchorage police say there is a lot of public confusion about the Amber Alert system. For example, one is only issued when there's been a witnessed abduction, or there is fear for a child's life.
Anchorage police say they took the search for 11-year-old Nathan Turpin seriously. Officers worked around the clock to find him and even asked the community for help. “A volunteer search team was activated at 2 o'clock in the morning and over a dozen volunteers showed up to search for this young man,” said APD spokesperson Anita Shell. “They looked through abandoned vehicles, abandoned buildings, open businesses just about anywhere they could find.”
Nathan was found at a friend's house in Oceanview earlier this afternoon. An Amber Alert was not issued.
“We did not have Amber Alert, we did not issue an Amber Alert, because we didn't have an abduction, we have a missing person – that did not preclude us from getting the information out it just was not an Amber Alert activation.”
Police say they didn't need to activate the system, because Nathan's case didn't meet the requirements.
“First we try to determine if it was an abduction, an actual abduction, if so then the Amber Alert would be issued relatively quickly, within just a few minutes,” said Shell.
Because Nathan was a runaway and not abducted, police issued what they call a lesser level of alert. At about 2 a.m., residents who live in the 99516 zip code, where Nathan was last seen, got automated calls on their landlines that a child was missing.
Officials say Amber Alerts should only be used in extreme situations. “We don't want to weaken the effectiveness of the Amber Alert by putting it out on every missing child,” said Shell. When a child goes missing, police say they are the first and final authority on issuing alerts, but they stress that they do need everybody's help.
In any missing child case, police say time is of the essence. “I would discourage folks looking at people's Facebook,” said Shell. “Things like this, for up to date accurate information, that information is sent out by agency investigating to our local media as the information gets to us.”
Since Alaska began using the EAS broadcast Amber Alert system in 2009, Anchorage police say only four have been issued. In all cases involving missing people or abductions police notify a long list of people as part of its alert system. That list includes taxicab companies, hospitals, the People Mover bus system, and even mall security to be on the lookout for people who may be in danger or missing.