How, and when, AMBER Alerts are used in Tennessee
You've probably noticed recent AMBER Alerts sent messages to your phone, on your TV and to all state road signs. Channel 3 takes a look at what causes a statewide alert and how local agencies help bring each child home safely.
"AMBER Alerts are reserved for the most critical, time sensitive, stranger abduction cases," said Kim Kinsey, Terminal Agency Coordinator at the Hamilton County 911 Dispatch Center.
If there's a missing child in our area, Kim Kinsey is one of the first to know.
Each case needs to meet specific criteria to activate an AMBER Alert.
The child must be under the age of 18 and in imminent danger.
Authorities need to have either a description of the car, a description of the suspect or a description of the child.
"Once we determine it does meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert we contact the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and request that they declare an AMBER Alert," Kinsey said, "Because in TN only the TBI can declare an AMBER Alert."
"The purpose of the AMBER alert is to engage the public, to help us find and bring a child home," said Margie Quin, TBI Special Agent in Charge, "So we have to give the public something to look for, it's either got to be a car, a suspect, or a child."
The TBI says it's rare to have three AMBER Alerts in the last two weeks, but that's exactly what we saw in Tennessee.
The TBI issues between 10-12 AMBER Alerts a year, saved for the most egregious cases of child abduction.
"If we declare too many AMBER Alerts than it takes away from the attention that the more serious ones get," Kinsey said.
What the public can do to help keep the AMBER Alert system so successful, is to pay attention to the messages that flash across your screen and keep a look out, because during an AMBER Alert, every second counts.
"The idea is that no matter where you are we want you looking, as a member of the public, for a missing child if you are in an area where there is a missing child in imminent danger," Quin said.
In Tennessee there's a 98 percent recovery rate for AMBER alerts on abducted children.
AMBER Alerts work in a similar manner to cold cases whereas if an AMBER Alert is issued by the TBI - it always remains open and active.
Tennessee has three unsolved AMBER Alerts, two in Bedford County, and one in Millersville.
If you ever have information on a missing child, call the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.