That’s what Seagoville Police Chief Ray Calverley counted on when he requested the Amber Alert Monday, April 19 for missing teens Devany Betancourt and Marina Nelson.
Their disappearance turned out to be a hoax.
“They know that it involves children, whether they’re infants or about to be adults,” he said. “It involves children, so people pay attention to the Amber Alerts.”
That was the goal, but only in the most serious abduction cases, according to retired Tarrant County Sheriff and Amber Alert Co-Founder Dee Anderson.
“It had to be used very, very sparingly,” said Anderson. “Not because they ran away. Not because the parents couldn’t find them at the neighbor’s house.”
DPS said the current criteria includes enough information to help locate the child, a suspect, or a related vehicle – and not all three are necessary.
Anderson said they cautioned law enforcement at the beginning about lowering standards.
“The biggest threat to the Amber Alert is that you have law enforcement people that don’t have strong backbone to stand up and say, ‘Hey we’re going to do everything we can to find your child, but it doesn’t meet the criteria.’”
As of last December, 1,029 children have been successfully recovered through the Amber Alert System.
It’s also meant to serve as a deterrent to child predators.
And while it has, Anderson said he fears overuse has made the public become immune to Amber Alerts.
“They don’t pay attention to it like they used to. And that’s the death knell for the program,” he said.
And he worries what that will mean for the children – like Amber Alert’s namesake Amber Hagerman – who truly needed it.
“It also just puts in danger the next child that is in danger of being harmed or killed.”