A series of changes to the state’s Amber Alert system could be coming that would reduce the time it takes to issue an alert by 20 to 30 minutes, according to the program’s coordinator.
One change that is expected to take place Wednesday was prompted in part by the abduction and murder of 10-year-old Hailey Owens of Springfield last month.
Captain Greg Kindle says it involves the forms that local law enforcement officers have had to print out, fill out and fax to the Patrol when a child is abducted. Those will be made available to fill out and submit online, which Kindle says will save hassle and time.
Kindle says another change could make a greater difference, but it is dependent on money being left in the state’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget to support it.
Representative Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) proposed, and the House Budget Committee adopted, $120-thousand dollars to pay for the Patrol to tie in the Amber Alert System to the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES).
Kindle says that would altogether eliminate the need for a local officer to fill out that form.
“When they make their MULES and (National Crime Information Center) entry … it would come straight to Troop F off that entry,” says Kindle.
Amber Alerts are administered and issued at the Patrol’s Troop F headquarters based in Jefferson City.
Kindle says if that money is included in the final budget proposal, the Patrol could move forward with tying those two systems together.
Another upgrade that has been the subject of testing with the U.S. Department of Justice since before Thanksgiving would allow one entry from the Patrol to simultaneously go to news agencies, the Amber Alert website and the Emergency Alert System. The Patrol currently has to enter each separately.
Kindle says he is optimistic that upgrade will take effect in the next month or two.
The end result of all of those upgrades could be significant.
“On the originating agency’s end, that could be several minutes,” says Kindle. “Not having to print this form out and fax it and all that … you’re probably talking 15 or 20 minutes that’s going to save in the originating agency. Here in Troop F, it’s probably going to knock another five to ten minutes off.”
Kindle says such a reduction in time would be “extremely important. Every minute counts when you have a true abduction like that.”
Other efforts would involve Amber Alert training for all law enforcement entities that make MULES entries. That would have other entities besides the officers at the scene considering whether a situation merits an Amber Alert.
“The officer there on the scene is dealing with witnesses and trying to get license plates and descriptions of vehicles and all that, and an Amber Alert might not be the first thing that comes to his mind,” explains Kindle. “This radio operator that’s kind of removed, we’re hoping, will think, ‘Hey, we talked about this Amber Alert thing. This looks like it may qualify.’ Again, maybe just five minutes, ten minutes saved there.”
Training will also be offered for line officers in police and sheriffs’ departments in considering when a situation merits an Amber Alert.