AUSTIN, TX - House Bill 3385 was passed Thursday in the Texas House of Representatives. The bill by Rep. Garnett Coleman (D-Houston), joint-authored by Rep. Carl Isett (R-Lubbock), is intended to ensure the safety of Texas children.
H.B. 3385 allows Amber Alerts to be issued for children in danger of becoming victims of sexual assault. This bill will also cover situations where a child under 14 is taken willingly, but without parental consent, by a person who is more than three years older than the child and is not a relative.
"This bill increases the scope of child safety originally intended by Amber Alert," Isett said, "without interfering with the inherent integrity of the program."
Currently, the Department of Public Safety will issue an alert at the request of local law enforcement if an abducted child is in immediate danger of serious bodily injury or death, but not if the child is in danger of becoming the victim of sexual assault.
"The current criteria for issuance of an Amber Alert is sometimes too narrow," said Coleman who currently chairs the committee on County Affairs. "The state does not consider children in jeopardy of being sexually assaulted to be in danger."
This bill comes in response to several child abduction incidents, including one that occurred in Lubbock last October. The local law enforcement officials were denied an alert after a neighbor took three children to Louisiana and Oklahoma after telling their families he was taking them to Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.
Since the statewide Amber Alert system was fully implemented in 2002, only 42 alerts, of the 236 requested, have been issued.