Explaining the policy behind the AMBER Alert that woke up Northeast Ohio

AMBER Alert went out at 12:43 a.m. Friday morning.

Explaining the policy behind the AMBER Alert that woke up Northeast Ohio

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -The trouble began in Cleveland Heights late Thursday night with a custody dispute between a family and the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services.

The wheels were already in motion between the Cleveland Heights Police Department and the Cuyahoga Emergency Communications System (CECOMS) to issue an AMBER Alert when most in Northeast Ohio were in bed.

When the five children couldn’t be located, the decision was made to issue an AMBER Alert because the case met the four criteria:

  • Law enforcement confirms the child (or children) is under 18 years of age.
  • Law enforcement believes the abduction poses a credible threat of immediate danger or serious bodily harm or death to the child.
  • There is sufficient descriptive information about the child, the suspect, and/or the circumstances surrounding the abduction to believe that activation of the alert will help locate the child.
  • A law enforcement agency determines the child is not a runaway.

With the paperwork completed and processed to CECOMS late Thursday night, and the decision had to be made to use the state of Ohio’s emergency alert systems which includes cell phone alerts.

It is possible to use highway billboards, television scrolling and cell phone alerts independent of each other, or all at the same time.

“There may be occasion where a cellular telephone alert may be discretionary depending on the circumstances,” Chief John Majoy said, of the Newburgh Heights Police and chairman of Northeast Ohio AMBER Alert Committee. “In most cases there will be such an alert but there may be times, late at night, where the cellular alert may not be needed. There is no “one size fits all” but rather this is another utility for law enforcement to use to help bring the child home safe.”

With Thursday’s case involving five children, it met the case-by-case need to issue a cell phone alert.

The most important part, according to Majoy, is that people see past the inconvenience of being woken up by the alert.

“I think it is imperative for the public to know the importance and necessity of these alerts,” Majoy said. “These are emergency situations where lives are at stake. The public is one of the greatest resources law enforcement has. The public has been responsible for the safe return of many individuals and we want to sustain that.”

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