Stringent Rules Dictate ‘Amber Alerts’

Los Alamos Daily Post

Some readers asked why police did not activate an Amber Alert when a 10-year-old boy went missing Wednesday in White Rock.

Los Alamos Police Chief Dino Sgambellone explained that there are strict rules governing the use of an Amber Alert (activation criteria).

“The criteria includes a confirmed abduction, with the risk of serious bodily injury or death, sufficient descriptive information, with a child under 18 (though different states use different age limits),” Sgambellone said. “This event did not meet the activation criteria for an Amber Alert.”

Amber Alert is a cooperative agreement between New Mexico broadcasters and law enforcement. The New Mexico Broadcaster’s Association (NMBA) represents the broadcasters in this endeavor, and they were instrumental in bringing Amber Alert to New Mexico in 1999. The agreement allows law enforcement access to the state’s Emergency Alert System, or ‘EAS’. If a law enforcement agency is investigating a child abduction, they can broadcast useful information over the EAS system, with the hope that the public may have seen the vehicle involved or the suspect, for example.

The Amber Alert website states that the reason there are such stringent rules as to when an ‘Amber Alert’ may be broadcast is to help alleviate false alarms and over-use of the system. To meet the criteria for an Amber Alert, there must be evidence of a non-family or custodial abduction; of a child 17 years of age or less; and, there must be specific information concerning the abductor and/or child, which would prove useful to the public in hopes of recovering the child; and, there must be reason to believe the child in is imminent danger of bodily harm or death.

The way the system works is that 770 KKOB Radio, owned by Cumulus Communications, is the designated ‘state primary station’ for the Emergency Alert System. They are at the ‘top’ of the information pyramid. Every radio and television station in the state that is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is required to monitor their EAS equipment. The agency investigating the abduction can call 770 KKOB Radio, and record a message for broadcast over the EAS. 770 KKOB Radio will then broadcast the message over the EAS. Essentially, a statewide broadcast of the Amber Alert will occur.

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