Monday, Dec 9, 2013
Online Petition to Create Alerts for All Missing Children
WSIL -- The recent murder of a seven-year-old girl has sparked interest in more warnings for missing children.
Nearly two days passed from the time Willow Long of Watson was reported missing to when her body was discovered Monday evening. Crews were actively searching her hometown, but many people wondering why an Amber Alert was never issued.
The Amber Alert was one of the first questions that the Effingham County Sheriff, John Monnet, wanted to clarify during a press conference on Monday. Monnet explained that Willow's disappearance was not believed to be a kidnapping and didn't meet the criteria.
There's now a growing petition to create a new warning to cover all missing children, not just children that have been abducted.
The message on the Change.Org website is short. It asks for the Amber Alerts or another warning system to include all missing children.
That list of supporters is getting longer. More than 5,000 people had signed and shared their reasons by Friday afternoon.
You can take a look at the petition here: Willow's Warning
Sheriff Monnet detailed how many agencies from surrounding communities and counties knew that Willow Long was missing.
"Everybody is aware of Willow," said Monnet on Monday. "Her picture and what we're looking for."
The state criteria for an Amber Alert includes that a child, 16 or younger, has been taken and is believed to be in danger. Authorities must also have a good description of the child and suspect that would be helped by a state broadcast.
Williamson County Deputy Brian Murrah believes the criteria for Amber Alerts are meant to keep the warnings effective.
"I think the concern of the higher level people, the organizers, is that if we overuse it, that people will just begin to ignore it," said Murrah.
If a case doesn't meet the standards, police still have options. For example, when a child wanders off, the sheriff's department can call in people or equipment for a search.
"We've got access to all the dogs in the region," said Murrah. "We've got access to helicopters in the immediate area."
Murrah has also seen smaller announcements to local media and the nearby populations work well. The department has been able to find a number of missing kids and runaways in recent years.
"The people in the area keep good track," said Murrah. "They don't hesitate to call if they know we need something."
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