Akron police discuss criteria for issuing Amber Alerts; Many cell phones receive alerts

AKRON, Ohio - The U.S. Department of Justice offers guidelines to law enforcement when it comes to issuing Amber Alerts for missing children.

Those recommendations are:

- There is reasonable belief that an abduction has occurred.

- The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.

- There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an    AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.

- The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.

Lt. Rick Edwards from the Akron Police Department said if that criteria is reached, information will be forwarded from the Akron Police and Fire Communications Center to the Summit County Sheriff's Department Dispatch Center.

"They enter it into the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and then it's broadcast through a local agency out of Cleveland," Edwards said.

If the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of a child fail to meet the Amber Alert guidelines, Edwards said reverse 911 calls are often made to area residents, advising them to be on the lookout of for a missing person.

However, there are times when police investigate, but don't issue alerts.

"We don't want to get into those domestic situations where it's a child custody case, and we do get a lot of those, but if you determine that, it really doesn't really qualify for an Amber Alert," Edwards said.

The last time APD issued an Amber alert was 2007, when a resident reported a teenaged girl being forced into a conversion van. Police received information from that alert and determined the female was an adult and it wasn't a kidnapping.

Amber Alert technology continues to evolve. Notifications of missing children were first made on radio and television. Today, alerts are posted on billboards, digital highway signs and on search engines and social media websites, including AOL, Facebook, Google, MySpace and Yahoo!

In January 2013, millions of cell phone users began receiving Amber Alerts through the Wireless Emergency Alerts program.

Many people received a loud tone on their phones early Monday morning when an 8-year-old Cleveland boy was reported missing. The boy was later found in Erie County and his non-custodial father was arrested.

Stephen Wascak, store supervisor of Verizon in Fairlawn, said 13 of the company's mobile devices include the alerts.

"It does weather. It does presidential and it does Amber Alerts. You have the ability to turn off the weather alerts and to turn off the Amber alerts. You don't on the presidential," Wascak said.

He said pushing out the alerts is great way to keep consumers aware and help law enforcement.

Pam Vanags, of Kent, said she's glad the alerts are now going to phones.

"Many of us don't have our television on or the radio on or anything like that. We always have our phone with us," Vanags said.

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