Indiana State Police: Amber Alerts take time to issue

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Since its inception 11 years ago, there have been 37 Amber Alerts issued in Indiana, which have led to the recovery of 45 children.

But police acknowledge the Amber Alert system isn’t without its limitations – three children have died in Indiana before they could be recovered.

Indiana State Police are quick to warn that the system isn’t a “silver bullet” responsible for recovering all missing children; likewise, delays in issuing Amber Alerts cannot be blamed if a child dies or fails to be recovered quickly, police say.

“I think it’s important for everybody to understand that every investigation is unique,” said Captain Dave Bursten, a spokesman for Indiana State Police. “We are careful to make sure that it is a valid circumstance before the alert (is) issued.”

On Wednesday, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department issued an Amber Alert for a missing 6-week-old child. As of Thursday evening, the child was still missing.

“People forget that this is one more tool in the toolbox – that we were looking for missing and abducted children long before Amber Alert’s existed,” said Captain Dave Bursten, a spokesman for Indiana State Police.

“Each investigation can have mounds of information that has to be gone through by investigators to determine what the circumstances are,” he said.

The alert for the Indianapolis child was issued several hours after the child was first reported missing, which raised questions about how quickly the process was executed.

Bursten said while state police are responsible for issuing Amber Alerts, several criteria have to be met before one can be issued. Among the criteria:

  • An abduction must have occurred
  • The child must be under the age of 18
  • There must be descriptive information of suspect or vehicle that police can release
  • The police agency must request that an Amber Alert is issued

According to data provided by Indiana State Police, since the Amber Alert system took effect, there have been 122 requests, but only 37 Amber Alerts issued. Those numbers, Bursten said, prove that state police are somewhat judicious in how they issue Amber Alerts.

National figures show it takes up to 12 hours before most Amber Alerts are issued – once that occurs – the majority of children are recovered within that same time frame. The number of children recovered starts to taper off 12 hours after the Amber Alert is issued.

That same data shows that nationwide, Amber Alerts have gradually decreased. Between 2005 and 2011 (the latest national data figures available) the number of Amber Alerts dropped from 275 in 2005 to 158 in 2011. Those same statistics show that in 2011, the average success rate nationwide was above 70 percent, according to an I-Team 8 analysis.

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