Local News

N.C. Working To Create Statewide Amber Alert System

Posted August 5, 2002 4:44 a.m. EDT

— State officials said they need time, money and training to get a child abduction alert system going in North Carolina, even though they already have many other tools to get started now.

Highway message signs are a big part of California's Amber Alert system. Information on a recent abduction suspect was right there for drivers. The Triangle has eight of those message signs along Interstates 40 and 85, but the state Department of Transportation said it cannot just start putting out missing person information. DOT officials said they need a plan from law enforcement, which Attorney General Roy Cooper is working on.

"I'd love to have it tomorrow," he said.

Even though the hardware is there for the highway message signs, they, too, will have to wait. DOT technicians said it would be easy to put a message out to the public.

However, supervisors said they do not want to take any action until they get a plan from the justice system.

"We would be glad to do our part and be a partner in a public safety effort like this, but only with cooperation from law enforcement and the attorney general's office and those folks," Hutchinson said.

Cooper said the abduction alerts will have tight criteria.

"A child's life is really in danger. You have to have a good description of the child or the abductor or the vehicle before law enforcement activates the system," he said.

Cooper said the abduction alert system will be part of the North Carolina Child Alert Network (NC CAN). He said there is no firm timetable at this point to bring together law enforcement, broadcasters and the DOT.

Fourteen states currently have statewide Amber plans. Sixteen states, including North Carolina, have regional plans.

Getting the word out quickly is very important. According to

Missing Kids

, 75 percent of children who are abducted and killed are killed within the first three hours. Officials said in more than half of child abductions, the word does not get out for at least two hours.