A CLOSER LOOK: The criteria for issuing AMBER and Silver alerts

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KFTA) — Silver Alerts and AMBER Alerts must meet specific criteria before they are sent out to law enforcement agencies.

Silver Alerts are an emergency notification blast sent out when a person, often elderly, with a mental illness goes missing, according to Capt. Ti Augustine with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

AMBER Alerts are issued when a child is believed to have either been abducted or is considered endangered, according to Augustine.

“Silver and AMBER alerts are issued as soon as there is enough info to support an alert/meet the criteria for an alert. There is no time limit for a person to be missing before an alert can be issued,” Augustine said.

There is specific criteria that must be met before such an alert can be issued.

Arkansas State Police lists the minimum reporting criteria for an AMBER Alert as the following:

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an actual ABDUCTION has occurred.
  • Law enforcement believes that the child is in IMMINENT DANGER of serious bodily injury or death.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER ALERT to assist in the recovery of the child.
  • The abducted child is under 18 years of age.
  • The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the CHILD ABDUCTION FLAG, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.

State Police is the state’s coordinating law enforcement agency to alert the public of missing or abducted children.

“The Arkansas State Police was one of the first law enforcement agencies in the country to model a statewide notification system based on the local AMBER Alerts used in many large U.S. cities,” the State Police website states.

For a Silver Alert to be issued, the missing individual must meet one of the the following conditions listed by State Police:

  1. has been adjudicated by a court to be incapable of managing his or her own personal affairs (i.e. through a guardianship proceeding); or
  2. has a documented diagnosis of a mental illness, injury or other condition causing the person to be incapable of making personal care decisions; or
  3. is strongly suspected, by that person’s caregiver or family member, to be afflicted with some form of dementia.

“Time is of the essence when individuals with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive disorders wander off or become lost,” the State Police website states. “The Silver Alert Program was developed to provide vital information to authorities to assist in the search and safe recovery of these individuals, and quickly reunite them with their loved ones and/or caregivers.”

  1. Also, Arkansas sheriffs and police chiefs who request a Silver Alert are responsible for ensuring that the individual or family member reporting the person missing be:
  2. the legal guardian of the person who is the subject of the Silver Alert;
  3. an immediate family member living in the same household with the person who is the subject of the Silver Alert;
  4. a caregiver who has had recent contact with the person who is the subject of the Silver Alert.

Any deputy or officer can ask a supervisor to send a Silver or AMBER alert request, Augustine said.

“A department supervisor will send the request to the State Police. The State Police ultimately decide if an alert will be put out (if the missing person meets the criteria),” Augustine said.

There are no special alerts issued when an adult without a mental illness goes missing.

“The reason the State has not put able bodied, sound minded, missing adults into a classification alert is largely due to the fact that being a missing adult is not against the law and does not automatically mean that the missing adult is in danger,” Augustine said. “Often, missing adults are only missing to the person(s) reporting it. The adult just does not want the reporting person to know where they are. If an alert was issued in each of these cases, it would be a drain on resources for someone who potentially isn’t missing at all.”

All law enforcement personnel are notified when either an AMBER or Silver alert is issued.

“It comes over the Arkansas Crime Information Center terminal; a ‘be on the lookout’ accompanies that,” Augustine said. “It gives all the information of the missing person out over the radio to all the officers. All the officers also carry smartphones, so they’ll receive alerts through their phones.”

Once the alert is issued, law enforcement personnel keep a sharp eye open.

“They start to do just that, be on the look out for the person or a vehicle, whatever the descriptions are in the alert,” Augustine said.

If further information is developed on the missing child or elderly person, then that information is updated and released to all law enforcement personnel, according to Augustine.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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