AMBER Alerts: Guidelines for issuing an alert to the public

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – In light of the search efforts for a missing three-year old girl in southeast Missouri, many Region 8 residents have been asking why an AMBER Alert has not been issued in the case. Breeann Rodriguez of Senath, Missouri was reported missing Saturday after she was last seen riding her bicycle. Since her disappearance, police have been trying to locate the little girl.

Click here for information on the search efforts.

Shortly after Region 8 News posted the disappearance on Facebook, residents began questioning why an AMBER Alert wasn't issued. According to Senath Police Chief Omar Karnes, there is no proof of foul play in Breeann's disappearance.

Region 8 News contacted Arkansas State Police Monday afternoon. Director of Arkansas State Police Bill Sadler said local law enforcement agencies must treat each case differently on its own merits. He said before AMBER Alerts are issued, local law enforcement agencies must follow recommended guidelines.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, AMBER Alerts may be issued if police have reasonable belief that abduction has occurred. Police also must have reasonable belief the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death. Another guideline indicates that police must collect enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction to assist in the recovery of the child. Click here for more information on guidelines for issuing AMBER Alerts. Many states also have different age guidelines when contemplating an AMBER Alert.

According to the Department of Justice, these guidelines were implemented to ensure the AMBER Alert system is not abused. Guidelines also suggest police must use a "best judgment" approach based on the evidence.

Region 8 News discussed the usage of AMBER Alerts with three parents Monday afternoon. All of them disagree with the requirements regarding a missing three-year old child.

"I saw a little bit about her, that she went missing and no one issued an AMBER Alert for her," said Susan Khan, mother of a 4-year-old boy. "It outrages me, because I could be in her mom's shoes, thinking that somebody has my child. Where is she? Is she safe or is he safe? Is somebody putting them on a plane to go overseas? Is he being sold? Is he hurt?"

Khan said the case is especially disturbing to her personally. She said her former husband, who now lives in Pakistan, has threatened to take her child overseas. She said she wouldn't know what to do if that happened.

"My son is my life. He is my blood in my veins. He's what holds me together. Even thinking that somebody could take him just scares me," said Khan. "If an AMBER Alert is issued, people pay attention because it goes through Facebook. Many people have it where when an AMBER Alert goes, it text messages them."

Khan and her friend Janeen Gossett were watching their kids at the park Monday afternoon when approached by Region 8 News. Gossett, a mother of three, said an AMBER Alert should have been issued in the Rodriguez case.

"A child is a child. It don't matter if they're just a new baby or 17, they're still kids. If they're missing, we need to know about it so we can be looking for them," said Gossett.

Dori Scott is a mother of a four-year old girl. She said her concern is that her child will wander off and follow a stranger.

"I love her spirit and she's so friendly and open. She is so happy, but what scares me is she likes everybody," said Scott.

She said when children trust everyone, it's a dangerous combination and that AMBER Alerts in such cases should be issued.

"Under the age of a certain age like 10, or even three-years-old, they have no choice," said Scott.

"My number one fear is her, even this nice safe little town, realistically it's a small town, it could happen," said Scott. "Three-year-old or any child that does not really know they're own mind, cannot make their own decision. Realistically, a three-year-old goes missing, whether it be a family member that takes them, an AMBER Alert should always be put out for it."

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