Local News

Officials Learning Lessons from Amber Alert Hoax

Posted March 11, 2007

Police said the kidnapping report that sparked a statewide Amber Alert on Friday was fictitious. The alleged hoax was a first for North Carolina, and officials said they're trying to learn from it.

The Amber Alert had police officers focused on one Durham neighborhood, looking for 15-year-old Natalie Fernandez.

“Investigators, uniformed patrol officers from different districts, we were canvassing the area,” said Durham Police Lt. Howard Alexander. “We had three interpreters on the scene.”

But in the end, investigators found out that Fernandez had not been abducted by two men at gun point. She was found in her boyfriend’s apartment hours after the Amber Alert was issued for her. She, her boyfriend and her two sisters face multiple charges related to the alleged hoax.

While police say they can't put an exact dollar amount on how much the non-kidnapping will cost the city, those who deal with missing person cases said they are hoping to learn from the incident.

The Amber Alert coordinator for North Carolina, Lois Hogan, told WRAL the fictitious story about what happened was a first for the department. Hogan said to her knowledge, there had never been a false Amber Alert issued in the state before Friday.

On average, the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons receives between 60 and 75 calls each year from people wanting to issue Amber Alerts, but less than 20 percent of them actually meet all the requirements.

Department leaders said they're working on making the system even better to weed out false alerts like the one on Friday. But in the meantime, law enforcement officials said they hope that the hoax didn’t damage the overall credibility of future Amber Alerts.

“I just hope it doesn't happen again, because you want this service to be used when it really needs to be used and for people to take it seriously,” Alexander said.

A related alert system in a nearby town also generated controversy during Friday’s incident. Amber Alert information is supposed to be broadcast on traffic signs when possible. Drivers along Interstate 40 in Durham saw the alert, but the message was not up on Cary's traffic signs.

The town spokesperson says the signs aren’t staffed 24 hours a day. Currently they are monitored by the town's traffic management office. But officials said they plan to link the signs to Cary’s 911 center in the near future.


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  • PC Mar 12, 2007

    This is yet another example of the dramatic rise in crime, in the Triangle, from Hispanic foreign nationals, possibly illegal aliens. Some news reports say this story may have links to the deadly terrorist gang, MS13, a Hispanic gang brought into North Carolina, to some extent, by illegal aliens. Why was none of this highlighted in this story?

  • Joy4u2 Mar 12, 2007

    I agree with you when I was growing up I got the switch and belt and I got it quite often , and when I messed up in school they paddeled your butt and then you got it again when you got home. I thank my parents for it now it taught me respect and in school, it teach's you that your there to learn not to play or do what you want. They need the golden rule back in school. And also in the homes and social services keep the noes's out.

  • bmerritt Mar 12, 2007

    This kind of behavior can be effectively delt with by a good dose of public humiliation - bring back the stocks!

  • USAFWife Mar 12, 2007

    They should have the teens involved out picking up trash and cigarette butts off the ground for the next year or so to pay the city back for the money spent looking for her. Put the adult into jail for a while and then give him community service for a good long while. If this is the first abuse of the Amber Alert System, they need to make a BIG example of those involved so that people in the future will think twice before misusing the system.

  • ZRex1102 Mar 12, 2007

    Yet another example of our degenerate youth.

  • Lulli Mar 12, 2007

    When we quit disciplining our children at home & took prayer out of schools, we eliminated respect & honor from our young people. I was raised on a switch & a belt; but you can bet your bottom dollar if this was done this day & time, Social Services would be doing a full investigation & I would be in a foster home! We need to get back to basics - beginning with home & then on to our schools. Simple. Plus, WE always had a chore to do. An idle mind brings trouble!

  • Lulli Mar 12, 2007

    Anyone giving a false report such as this should have to reimburse the government. I bet this would be a good deterrent! With a search of this magniture, this could probably put someone well into the golden years payint this debt. This is a serious matter & should be dealt with as such. The next time a child is missing, law enforcement may not act as quickly & slow the process of finding the child.

  • geeeeezz Mar 12, 2007

    I agree with AirB completely. Nothing will happened to these kids. They have to be held accountable RIGHT NOWW, not after they have really kidnapped or killed and then deal with it.
    THE COURTS need to wake up. You can fix it NOW or wait until something horrid happens to a child or an adult and DEAL with it THEN! THEY have the power to do this and they also need to find the resources to make sure that it is done and done correctly.

  • plcj Mar 12, 2007

    The AMBER ALERT system is in place for the right reasons. No matter what kind of system is in place somebody somewhere on any given day will take avantage of it. We have to learn from it and look more closely next time. As for these kids, there is no excuse for what they have done here and the should be made to pay the cost of the search. I think each one involved should be made to pay the same (the full cost of the search) and the funds be put in a trust for (I pray there aren't anymore but)the next search.

  • givitanam Mar 12, 2007

    I agree with alot of the comments on here. If parents these days weren't so PC or afraid to lose their children b/c of a nosy neighbor or the children themselves fabricating stories of abuse, I think spankings would happen more often. I got spanked. I turned out alright believe it or not. Kids have so much today that taking something away (ie. phone, computer, etc.)doesn't even phase them. Kids today are spoiled ingrates. They have no idea how good they have it and it's worse because they don't appreciate any of it.