Amber Alerts: A Look at How It Works - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

6/5/06

Amber Alerts: A Look at How It Works

Lubbock Police issued an Amber Alert around 5pm Sunday afternoon. Since then, baby Priscilla Maldonado's story has been making headlines nationwide.

Her picture has aired on CNN, MSNBC and is a top story on many newspapers across the state. Because of that exposure, local authorities have received tips from as far away as Detroit and California. NewsChannel 11's Kealey McIntire has a look at what authorities have done in the last day and a half.

Police are following leads and questioning anyone that has information about Priscilla Maldonado. Of course, this all started when Lubbock police issued their first ever Amber Alert.

The Amber Alert system came about in 1996 following the abduction and death of Amber Hagerman in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area. Shortly after, Dallas authorities teamed up with broadcasters to develop a warning system to find missing children. And now, it's very much in effect in Lubbock.

It's Monday morning and Lubbock Police give constant updates in the case of now 5-day-old Priscilla Maldonado. It's been almost a full day since she was kidnapped from her home. So what goes on behind the scenes and how do authorities communicate crucial information to other officers?

This is the message sent out from the local Department of Public Safety dispatch center: "Lubbock DPS, all officers and stations. The following is an Amber Alert broadcast issued by the Lubbock Police Department."

Just hours after learning of Maldonado's kidnapping, that's what the dispatchers communicated to all officers within a 300 mile radius.  

Dispatchers continue to give the description of Maldonado, the suspected kidnapper, and the vehicle numerous times throughout the day, and that's already generated many leads.  An incident on Sunday night resulted in Lubbock Police pulling over and questioning the driver of a red Pontiac Grand Am. The driver was later released, but it's an example of how serious officers take these situations.

Lubbock DPS Trooper John Gonzalez says, "our troopers are out on patrol, they're watching for the type of vehicle, the white van, the red Pontiac, and if they see anything suspicious they will stop and inquire."

Also, when Lubbock Police issued the Amber Alert they sent a message to nine thousand homes in the area where they thought the baby might be,  this is a portion of that message: "the Lubbock Police Department needs your assistance in locating a four-day-old hispanic female."

If you're working off the popular concept that the first 48 hours are the most crucial, that means less than 24 hours are left before many leads can go cold.

"Now we're playing against time," says Gonzalez, "because time is very essential to us. The more information we get out in a short amount of time, the less further away they can get with the child."

Studies show that since 1996, more than 265 children have returned home safely after an Amber Alert has been issued.

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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