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Amber Alert Changes in Missouri

Missouri lawmakers are working to determine whether Amber Alert laws need to be updated.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) "You don't want to issue an Amber Alert and get everybody in the community looking when you know the child may be right there. They don't do that automatically they call the police. Our team is sent out and we start doing our investigation then if need be then they issue the Amber Alert," said Joyces Estes, director at Northwest Missouri Children's Advocacy Center.

Estes works as a counselor - interviewing young victims of abuse and neglect.

"When an Amber Alert goes out, it usually is a pretty serious situation that somebody has taken the child or kidnapped the child. A child may even go off somewhere or may have gotten hurt in some other way," added Estes.
 
Every minute counts when searching for a missing child but Amber Alerts aren't always issued just because a child is missing.

In some cases, children are taken by a parent or relative.

"That's one reason we don't want the alert just for anything because people automatically think it's the worst," said Estes.

Missouri state legislators are now questioning Amber Alert laws following the kidnapping and death of Hailey Owens of Springfield, Missouri.

Owens was killed Feb. 18 after being abducted in her neighborhood.

They believe the forms required for an Amber Alert may have slowed down the search process.

"We constantly monitor that process to see if there are ways that we can improve that," said assistant division director, Lieutenant John J. Hotz.

Now concerned supporters are speaking out online in support of a faster Amber Alert system.

Comments on the site, pushing for Hailey's law, have the internet buzzing.

Authorities say Owen's case does show the system needs changes, but that the program in place does work.

"We basically mirror the federal criteria that's out there for the National Center for Missing Children and Exploited Children," added Hotz.

Before issuing an Amber Alert, police must have reasonable belief that an abduction has occurred, the child is in danger and have enough information about the child and the abductor.

Missouri has issued nearly 70 Amber Alerts since it started in 2003 in the state.

So far, no legislation to change the system has been introduced yet.

To learn more about Hailey's Law proposal, click here.

To learn more about Amber Alert's, click here.




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