Why aren’t AMBER Alerts issued for every missing child?

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A 7-year-old girl was reported missing out of Orem on Monday, which has some people asking the question, why wasn’t an AMBER Alert issued?

What does it take for an AMBER Alert to be issued in the first place?

According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, there are 4 criteria for issuing an AMBER Alert:

  • Law enforcement believes a child or children have been abducted
  • The child or children are 17 years old or younger
  • Law enforcement believes the victim(s) face imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death
  • There is information that could assist the public in the safe recovery of the victim or apprehension of a suspect

However, in the case of 7-year-old Jocelyn Cortes out of Orem, an Endangered Missing Advisory was issued.

So what’s the difference between an Endangered Missing Advisory and an AMBER Alert?

According to Utah DPS, law enforcement asks the following questions before issuing an Endangered Missing Advisory as opposed to an AMBER Alert:

  • Is the person missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances?
  • Is the person believed to be in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions, in the company of a potentially dangerous person or some other factor that may put the person in peril?
  • Is there information that could assist the public in the safe recovery of the missing person?

DPS says the purpose of issuing an endangered missing advisory is “to rapidly disseminate information about a missing and/or endangered person to law enforcement agencies and the media. The Endangered Missing Advisory is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement and local broadcasters for notifying the public about a missing and endangered person. The advisories are initiated solely by Utah law enforcement agencies.”

After reviewing the case, if the criteria for an AMBER Alert is not met, then an Endangered Missing Advisory is issued.

Members of the public flooded the comment section of the Orem Police Department Facebook page wondering why an AMBER Alert had not been issued for Cortes.

According to Orem police, an AMBER Alert was not issued for Cortes because “One of the requirements for AMBER Alert is that the law enforcement agency has to believe that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. That is not the case here and therefore doesn’t qualify.”

Cortes was last seen around 5 p.m. Monday at Classic Skating with family members.

Police say they have identified the first suspect as Jocelyn’s grandmother, 63-year-old Ivonne Cerda San Martin, who is 5’3″ tall, weighing about 180 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes.

A second suspect has been identified as Jocelyn’s aunt, 24-year-old Paola Bayon. She is described as 5’4″ tall, weighing about 140 pounds. Bayon has brown hair and brown eyes.

Jocelyn was last seen wearing black/pink leggings, glitter shoes, and a pink jacket with a leopard hood. She has brown hair and brown eyes. She is 3’6″ tall and weighs about 40 pounds.

The suspect was driving a silver 2000 Ford Mustang with license plate F260BY. Orem Police say it is unknown where they are traveling, Orem police said.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Jocelyn, the vehicle, or the suspects, you’re asked to contact Orem Police Department Dispatch at 801-229-7070.

According to Utah DPS, the AMBER Alert System, which stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth area broadcasters teamed up with local law enforcement to create an “early warning system for abducted children.”

The alert system is named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas and later murdered in 1996.

AMBER Alerts have helped save the live of over 800 children nationwide, according to Utah DPS

For more information on Utah’s AMBER Alert system, click here.

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