Columbus police explain criteria and importance of Amber Alerts

Columbus police explain criteria and importance of Amber Alerts

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - When smartphones suddenly start ringing loud with a notification of an Amber Alert, it’s an indication that a child has gone missing. Columbus police say there is a process to it all and helps save many children.

It’s that sound you hear on your smartphones after an Amber Alert has been issued in your state and can be issued across state lines when a child goes missing.

Lt. Joe Weatherford with the Columbus Police Department Special Victims Unit says there is a difference in determining Amber Alerts versus a missing person.

“A general rule on an Amber Alert is it will usually involve a none custodial abduction and there is evidence that the child is in imminent danger,” says Weatherford.

In recent news, an Amber Alert was sent out for three-year-old Kamille McKinney from Birmingham, Alabama, who police say was kidnapped at a birthday party.

Parents of children about that same age say they just couldn’t imagine it happening to them.

“My children are six and five. I have two girls and little kids are the most targeted. Why? I have no idea, but my kids are my world and without my children, I feel incomplete,” said Christina Harris.

Weatherford says the time frame for getting Amber Alerts out can become crucially important and contact police as soon as you know your child is missing.

“A lot of times, parents will wait and search and talk and call different people. It doesn’t hurt to go ahead and call 911 and get officers out there,” said Weatherford.

Parents say they agree.

“I think just having more people aware of the situation and being alert and knowing what’s going on and also knowing that people are looking out for your child if you happen to be that parent involved, ” says one mother, Katie Forsyth.

“I’ve heard that they help a lot. I mean, that’s a lot of eyes that it’s getting in front of and hopefully a lot more people are keeping a lookout, ” says Alex Wellborn.

Weatherford says this could happen to any parent and if it happens to you, it doesn’t make you a bad parent.

“Children will wander off and sometimes, all it takes is a second. Unfortunately, there are people that will abduct children and parents need to be vigilant about it,” said Weatherford.

“Every parent has had that moment where your heart is racing, even if it’s only 30 seconds where you’re like ‘oh my gosh, where did my kid go?' I mean we’ve all been there. People can deny it all they want,” says Wellborn.

For an Amber Alert, a child must be 17 years old or younger and in order to be a critically missing person, you must be 11 years or younger.

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