CHICAGO (CBS) — There are serious concerns about the AMBER Alert system.
Critics argue there’s a crack in the system and that the system is too subjective. Problems were exposed during a fake alert over the weekend.
Cases where a child might actually be in danger may never get an alert. Meanwhile cases like the one in Fulton County do, even though that story was completely made up.
Police got a frantic call from Mitchell Dutz on Saturday, reporting that his car had been stolen at a gas station with a 13-month-old baby in the back seat. A full fledged AMBER Alert went out putting the community and police on high alert. Turned out it was all a lie.
“There was never a child,” said Gia Wright of the Missing Persons Awareness Network. “How you even got a picture of that child blows my mind.”
Wright has led Chicagoland’s Missing Persons Awareness Network for nearly a decade. She said this case exposes the cracks in the system.
“That is a failure and I don’t think that failure was the AMBER Alert but the people that put it out,” Wright said.
According to federal and state guidelines “AMBER plans require law enforcement to confirm an abduction prior to issuing an alert.” But the Illinois State Police said that’s up to the reporting agency to verify and then relay the information.
According to a 2017 report by the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children, of the 195 AMBER Alert cases that year, 34 were not real.
Still, there are cases that involve actual abductions never get an alert. Like three-month-old Royalty Wolf who was taken in front of a DCFS agent by her biological mother who family members described as having a history of violent, unstable behavior and a long criminal record.
Fortunately, the baby was returned to her foster parents safely about a week later. At the time Chicago police said custody situations are judged individually and they did not have an accurate vehicle description.
But Wright argued these cases involving actual abductions deserve more attention.
“There was nothing. How did she go missing and where did they go for eight days and how did you not know that,” Wright said.
ISP said it is still investigating where the baby photo from the weekend’s false AMBER Alert came from since a baby was never actually involved.