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Amber Alert Law Changes To Include Parent Abductors

Every second counts — that’s the message law enforcement has when it comes to a missing child case that leads to an Amber Alert. A child abduction is every parent’s worst nightmare. But what happens when the person who took the child is legally the child’s parent? We went to find out how one change to the Amber Alert may help law enforcement find abducted kids faster.

California Highway Patrol said issuing an Amber Alert requires strict criteria, and before now, the law made it difficult to issue an alert if the person who took the child has custody of the child. But that’s about to change. Starting Jan. 1, a parent can’t just abduct their own child, whether that person has custody or not.

“A child can be abducted by a parent and if that child is in serious risk of a serious injury or death, then an Amber Alert can be placed,” said CHP Officer Tony Vincent.

Vincent said the four main criteria still apply: the abduction must be confirmed by law enforcement, the victim is 17 years or younger or is mentally or physically disabled, is in imminent danger, and that specific information — like a license plate number or vehicle description given to the public — could help find the child.

“Without the public’s help through the Amber Alert system, it can be very difficult to find the child. But this has allowed that to happen quicker if the person who took the child was a parent,” said Vincent.

Vincent said this one change will make issuing an Amber Alert a little easier for law enforcement.

“The possibility of sending out an Amber Alert and trying to find the child earlier has opened up those cases where in the past we couldn’t have sent it out if it was a parent that had abducted the child,” said Vincent.

An Amber Alert is still only issued for the most serious cases, and is only intended for parental abductions in life-threatening situations. CHP said there have been 11 amber alerts this year in California, five of them where a parent abducted the child. Last year, there were 15 Amber Alerts issued, nine of them where the parent abducted the child.

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