Local lawmaker proposes change to Amber Alert System - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/19/09

Local lawmaker proposes change to Amber Alert System

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - New legislation, introduced into the Texas House of Representatives would change the rules for Amber Alerts. It comes after authorities charged Kenneth Wilcox, 41 with kidnapping in October.

Investigators say he took three Lubbock children to the woods in southeastern Oklahoma. On Wednesday, NewsChannel 11 uncovered disturbing details about the case, argued by prosecutors during a December detention hearing. Attorneys say Wilcox introduced the children to at least one man who told them he wanted to purchase them for $3,000 and was interested in eating or consuming the children because they would make tender meals.

While folks here on the South Plains saw an Amber Alert, people across the state did not. That's because authorities could only issue a local alert, because the suspected kidnapping did not meet the criteria for a state-wide notice. Now, legislation co-authored by State Representative Carl Isett of Lubbock would change that.

"It was specifically drafted to address some of the concerns that we've had with the ability to use Amber Alert when children have been taken away, regardless of whether or not the parents gave permission for that," Isett said.  That's the problem local authorities ran into in October.  Right now, the Texas Amber Alert criteria states a child must be unwillingly taken.

Since investigators determined the children in the Wilcox case left willingly, with their parent's permission, state authorities did not issue a state-wide alert.  "If the child is 14, and the person, even if he or she willingly departed with the other person, if it's more than 3-years difference in their age, then it's qualified for use of the Amber Alert System," Isett said. 

"I remember seeing that, just saying holy cow," Board Member for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Todd Reno said.  Reno supports anything lawmakers can do to help children. "It was scary, and if you were the parents, in their shoes, obviously you would want something to be able to help. With this legislation, it would be able to allow the appropriate people to act fast, to help the kids when they need it the most," Reno said. 

There are concerns that if the system is over-used, it could become less effective. Isett told us he agrees, but doesn't feel this change would cause that. Right now the bill is in committee. Isett believes it has a good chance to pass this year.

(Click Here) to see the bill filed this month by Texas State Representative Garnet Coleman of Houston and Texas State Representative Carl Isett of Lubbock. 

Texas Amber Alert Updates
Read more about missing children in the state of Texas. Also learn more about what you can teach your children about abductions.

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