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Crime and Courts

KS Attorney General Orders 'Complete Review' Of Amber Alert System

amber_alert.jpg
Tony Webster
/
flickr Creative Commons
An Amber Alert on a cell phone.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has ordered a review of the state's Amber Alert system, after cell phone alerts failed following a kidnapping in Wichita Monday.

Schmidt has asked for a complete review of the program and a report no later than January 31, 2017.  

“The Amber Alert program is a vital public safety tool,” Schmidt said in a release Wednesday. “During the critical time of need when a child has been abducted, there is no room for error. Any mistake or procedural failure, regardless of its cause, that results in an Amber Alert being less than fully implemented and effective in a timely manner is unacceptable and must be addressed.”

In a letter to Kansas Bureau of Investigation Director Kirk Thompson, Schmidt said the program must be implemented flawlessly and in a timely manner every single time. Thompson has been tasked with determining steps that will be taken to ensure the reliability of future Amber Alerts. 

The Amber Alert was issued early Monday morning for a Wichita woman and her three children; the failure to send the alert to cell phones was reportedly human error. Thirty-year-old Melissa Gifford and all three children were found safe Tuesday at a west Wichita motel. 

According to Wichita Police Officer Charlie Davidson, the crime was reported by Gifford's boyfriend, who said two people came into his bedroom, tied him up and stole his cell phone and wallet.

"The victim stated that his 30-year-old girlfriend and her three children, an 8-year old male, 7-year-old female, and a 2-year-old male, were forced to leave with the suspects against their will," Davidson said Wednesday during a media briefing. 

The Wichita Police Department says five suspects have been arrested on charges of kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Investigators have yet to determine the motivation behind the kidnapping.

The Amber Alert program was started in 1996 after the kidnapping and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman in Texas. The nationwide program is designed to alert the public when a child has been abducted.

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Follow Abigail Beckman on Twitter @AbigailKMUW.

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