BEDFORD, Texas — Law enforcement officers from across North Texas learned of three changes to the emergency alert systems they use at a meeting in Bedford Friday. The goal of the meeting was to ensure agencies are up to date on the latest protocol and procedures.
One of the changes: it will now be easier for agencies to share follow up information, video or photos. Additionally, there are two new types of alerts: Camo Alerts, for missing veterans with mental illness or injury, and CLEAR Alerts, for adults who've been abducted.
Texas residents may be most familiar with statewide AMBER Alerts, which result in the alert on cellular phones and notices on TxDOT billboards.
But there are also regional AMBER Alerts. Those happen when the responding law enforcement agency feels there's enough qualifying information to share with media.
Protocol is they send a fax with that information to two specific AM news radio stations in the Metroplex, and those stations then share the information with all other media.
That system came under scrutiny in May when an 8-year-old girl was kidnapped in Fort Worth. Police there said they had an issue with their fax machine and the media alert was never sent.
On Friday, Jerry Vennum with the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office, which is the regional AMBER Alert coordinating office, said that fax system has long been successful and reliable.
The fax system won't change; what is changing, however, is the ability to send additional information.
"In addition to the fax, which is how it was done before, you can e-mail them follow up video and information that would be helpful in trying to find either a suspect or a victim," Vennum said.
That means doorbell-camera video, like the one we saw in the case of the 8-year-old in Fort Worth that showed the suspect's car, might be released to the public more quickly.
Additionally on Friday, law enforcement was trained and educated on two new statewide alerts. Camo Alerts are for veterans with mental illness or injury who've gone missing, according to a DPS employee at the meeting. And CLEAR Alerts are for adults 18-64 who've been abducted.
Alison Steele was the driving force behind CLEAR Alerts after her daughter Cayley Mandadi was murdered in San Antonio.
"The allegation is that my daughter was kidnapped by a known suspect, driving a known vehicle, at a known location at a known time. It was a textbook perfect opportunity to have this kind of intervention, if it had been available," she said.
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