Meridian, Miss. Thankfully, Amber Alerts aren't issued very often, but when they are, it's because local law enforcement has reported to state police that a child under 18 has been abducted by someone that's not their parent, is in imminent danger, and they have information that could lead them to the child and suspect. While there is some leeway on the criteria depending on the case, Mississippi Highway Patrol Sergeant Andy West says the information is closely reviewed before the alert is issued.
"It's centralized through our headquarters in Jackson, where the Highway Patrol gets the Amber Alert information. They process it, and make sure that it is indeed within the criteria of Amber Alert, and it's distributed back across all the law enforcement personnel across the state, as well as the media."
Whenever the Highway Patrol sends out an Amber Alert, it comes straight to WTOK's Master Control to our Digital Alert System box. Our General Manager, Tim Walker, believes it's so important for the media to be a partner in this because we can reach a large amount of people in a short amount of time.
"We have first of all the TV screen that so many people use, but we have other methodology that we've adopted over the years such as our text alert systems, our notification systems through our iPad apps, our iPhone apps, etc., and so we have built a network of viewers even through social media."
Amber Alert policies vary from state to state, but having the alerts sent out at the state law enforcement level means they can communicate with other agencies more effectively.
"When that information is dispersed, it'll be dispersed across the whole state, and if there's reason to believe that person may travel out of state, we'll get involved with the state we could be involved as well."
You can receive Amber Alerts through TV, the WTOK app, and other Amber Alert smartphone apps.