Local Detective Explains AMBER Alert System, CART Program

Published 02/19 2014 03:23PM

Updated 02/19 2014 10:57PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) If a child abduction were to occur in St. Joseph, it would likely be Sergeant Jennifer Protzman with the St. Joseph Police Dept. that leads the response.

"In the studies that I've read and been informed about, the child typically is dead within three hours of the abduction," Sgt. Protzman said.  "So in a lot of cases, parents delay reporting."

And since timing is everything, the AMBER Alert system can be invaluable to inform the public of an abduction.

In an event, local police must submit a report to the Missouri Highway Patrol, who will then issue the alert.

An AMBER Alert sign is meant to be seen as many people as possible.  It's meant to inspire public action from anyone who may see something suspicious.  But for an abduction to be considered for an AMBER Alert, is must meet specific criteria.

Sgt. Protzman:

"The criteria for that is that it has to meet an abduction under Missouri state statute.  The child must be seventeen and under.  There has to be a credible threat of harm or death to the child.  [Lastly,] there has to be information on the suspect, the suspect vehicle, or something of that sort to put out to the public.  That's what the AMBER Alert is all about: putting that information out to the public in hopes that someone will see the suspect, know the suspect, see the vehicle, and call in."

It's getting information on the suspect that Protzman says is most difficult.

In cases that don't meet all the amber alert criteria, Buchanan County has developed a Child Abduction Response Team (CART).

It's a team that includes all area law enforcement, the school district, the media, and so many others.

"You have good inter-agency relationships," Protzman said. "These are established well before an event happens so everyone is familiar with everyone, we all know what our role is, and know what we're supposed to do."

Protzman says since she joined her division she can't remember an AMBER Alert coming from St. Joseph.

But if one were to occur, she and her team are getting all the readier for their response.

The next step in training for Buchanan County's CART team is a mock abduction event they'll hold sometime in March.

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