Police work to have area Amber Alert

March 18, 2003 | Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)

 | Page: 9 | Section: Metro/Region
370 Words | Readability: Lexile: 1200, grade level(s): 10 11-12

After Tennessee's first statewide Amber Alert in February, local law enforcement personnel are working to establish a program to raise public awareness of child abductions, officials said Monday.

"If we have a problem here and we didn't have this tool, it would be a disservice to the community," said Capt. John Stuermer of the Chattanooga Police Department.

Capt. Stuermer said there will be a task force meeting next week with area law enforcement personnel and representatives of area media outlets.

On Feb. 24, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation activated its first statewide Amber Alert for 8-year-old Mariana Cisneros, who Nashville police believe was abducted by her mother and her mother's boyfriend.

TBI officials said some media outlets didn't get information about the alert in a timely manner. They are working to fix the glitches, Agent Jerri Powell said.

"I have been in contact with Capt. Stuermer and will help him any way I can in getting the local alert up and running," Agent Powell said recently.

An Amber Alert allows law enforcement personnel to get information about an abducted child to the public. The information, perhaps a picture of the victim and a suspect, a description of a vehicle and possible direction of travel, then is broadcast on television and radio, officials said.

The media's involvement is voluntary, officials said.

"We need to get a memo of understanding between law enforcement and the media," Capt. Stuermer said. "It's a very powerful tool, and we want to use it only for instances that warrant widespread broadcast."

An Amber Alert would be issued only if the missing person is under 17 years old, the abduction has been confirmed by law enforcement, there is information about a possible suspect and the victim is believed to be in danger, officials said.

Steve Hunsicker, news director for WTVC Channel 9, said the Amber Alert is a good program and the station would participate as a public service.

"I would think that if there is a missing person, we would be on the air with it before the official Amber Alert would be issued," he said. "We would participate throughout the process."

Sgt. Ken McCrary, a missing persons detective with the Chattanooga Police Department, said investigators get 60 to 100 reports a month of missing persons.

E-mail Dick Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com

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