MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The days-long search for 3-year-old Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney in Birmingham thrust the issue of missing persons to the forefront.
McKinney was one of many people reported missing this year across the state.
The Alabama Fusion Center, the intelligence arm of Alabama Law Enforcement Agency or ALEA, is tasked with issuing the missing persons alerts. Jay Moseley who leads the Fusion Center says the state’s already had a record number of alerts this year with 33 missing senior alerts and three amber alerts.
“We continually see more and more missing persons,” Moseley stated.
Despite the growing number, many still wrestle with whether to call law enforcement if they believe their friend or relative is missing.
ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor urges citizens not to hesitate.
“Parents sometimes think, ‘I don’t want to be that overreacting parent but I don’t know where my child is,’ or they don’t want to call or bother the police,” Taylor explained. “I want you to call the police, we want you to dial 911 so we can get this process started.”
That’s because time is essential. Moseley says it’s best to call 911 quickly and allow officers to assess the situation.
“When you think about getting in your car and driving, think how far you can go in 20 minutes,” Moseley stated. “In that case, just think how far a child can go in a short amount of time. If something doesn’t feel right or look right, call 911.”
ALEA has a standard protocol for reporting missing persons cases from the city to state level. When officers get the call, they have a checklist in hand to start the process. The first determination they must make is whether the person is missing or has been abducted. If they are abducted or in imminent danger due to a medical condition, an alert is issued.
Moseley pointed out, it's important to keep current pictures of children and senior citizens.
“As we recently saw in Birmingham, that the more pictures we can get that are current the better,” he stated. “Especially when a child is young they’re constantly changing, constantly growing, they have different hairstyles, different clothes.”
The same goes for senior citizens, who often go missing due to issues related to dementia or Alzheimer’s. It can be a challenge for some families to find a current photo and are left with using a driver’s license picture.
“Sometimes a driver’s license picture can be seven, eight years old,” said Moseley. “It’s really important to us to not only have the pictures of your children, but also of your parents and your grandparents.”
If you have a teenager at home, it's important that you're aware of their friends, schedules, and online activities.
“Parents need to be forthcoming with all of that information,” said Moseley. "Who were they talking to? What were they wearing? Who are their friends, and are they having problems at school - these questions are important especially as you get into the older teenage crowd.”
For more missing persons information, click here.