In Mississippi, the child has to be under the age of 17 and in danger while they are with a person who is not their parent before the alert can be issued.
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
When an Amber Alert is issued and a message scrolls across your television screen, flashes on a highway billboard, or is spoken through the speakers of your car, investigators are already in place to take calls and interview witnesses.
"It has to come through the Department of Public Safety, as a state-wide clearing house, to actually push out the Amber Alert to activate the resources of the state to assist in the area where the child may have been abducted," explained Mississippi Department of Public Safety Spokesman Warren Strain.
In Mississippi, the child has to be under the age of 17 and in danger while they are with a person who is not their parent before the alert can be issued. An Amber Alert can also be issued for a mentally or physically disabled person.
Local law enforcement have to submit a form to DPS, which is the only law enforcement agency in the state that can issue an Amber Alert. A team of investigators is then assembled in the basement of the department's headquarters, in what is called the "War Room," where they decide if the case meets the state's criteria for an alert.
Information such as a picture, along with description of the child and abductor are put out to the public. Once the Amber Alert is sent out to broadcast media, at least 10 Mississippi Bureau of Investigation agents sit by phones waiting on tips.
"There's actually sheets that have specific information that needs to be gathered from the people who are calling in on those tips. Then that information, once it's deemed to be creditable, then it's sent out into the field for further investigation by the agents who are boots on the ground so to speak," explained Strain.
DPS can ask other state's to issue an alert for a child that was abducted in Mississippi. The first few hours of an abduction are crucial to finding the child alive.
That's one reason broadcasters approached DPS about the Amber Alert system 11 years ago, in that time there has only been six alerts issued state-wide. The first few hours of an abduction are critical and so is getting the word out to the public who can help find the kidnapped child.
"You have all these radio stations out there and they are already interconnected with the Emergency Alert System which are in place for weather bulletins. It's actually set up for national emergencies," explained State Emergency Alert System Chairman Randy Bell.
Bell says through the use of satellite technology, DPS can access the Emergency Alert System over radio for two minutes to issue an Amber Alert.
It is instant access to the eyes and ears of motorists who could be sharing the highway with an abducted child.
"I can't think of a better use of a system that we have in place to be able to get crucial information out to the public that could save a child's life," said Bell.
Social media also plays a role in Amber Alert cases. DPS has a website, along with Twitter and Facebook accounts. The National Weather Service also displays child abduction emergencies on its website and through NOAA Weather Radio.
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