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Another Viewpoint – AMBER Alert

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KSL is a strong supporter of the AMBER Alert system. In a recent editorial, however, we questioned whether an alert issued in Salt Lake City in July followed established criteria.

Paul Murphy with the Utah Attorney General’s office and the state’s AMBER Alert Coordinator offered another viewpoint:

Paul Murphy
Utah AMBER Alert Coordinator
Utah Attorney General’s Office

A KSL editorial questioned whether the recent AMBER Alert issued by the Salt Lake City Police followed the established criteria. The simple answer is yes. A visibly shaken witness said she saw a man in his 30s violently force a kicking and screaming 8-year-old girl into his van. The van accelerated at such a rapid speed that the child fell back and hit the back of the van. The account from the witness never changed. Imagine the outcry if an alert wasn’t initiated and the girl was later found dead.

The AMBER Alert Advisory Committee reviewed every minute and every decision involved in this alert and every alert issued in Utah. This committee, which is comprised of law enforcement officers, broadcasters and ordinary citizens, has found that the criteria have been met in all 12 alerts issued in Utah. This has happened because we have provided extensive training to law enforcement and we are doing everything possible to make sure the AMBER Alert Plan is not overused or underused.

Unfortunately, we are hearing disturbing reports that some police agencies fear issuing AMBER Alerts because they don’t want the media scrutiny. This is a shame and potentially a tragedy since the AMBER Alert is the most effective tool available to bring a kidnapped child home safely. So far the alerts have recovered 215 children and the number of child abductions has decreased dramatically since every state adopted an AMBER Alert Plan.

A KSL-TV poll found that the public understands the need to quickly issue an alert when an officer believes a child has been abducted. It is my hope that the KSL Editorial Board and the media will also learn more about how the clock-ticking decision to issue an AMBER Alert can be a matter of life and death.

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