COLLEGE STATION, TX — When a child goes missing, it’s crucial for law enforcement to act fast, and sometimes calling upon the community’s vigilance is a necessary step to take.
Earlier this month, a three-year-old College Station child, Adeline Welch, was driven to Oklahoma by a family member who did not have full custody of her. College Station Police considered the case an abduction with high risk of injury or death.
That’s when Amber Alert Network Brazos Valley (AANBV) came to assist, spreading the word about Welch’s status by all means possible, and across state lines.
"Law enforcement who are on the street at any given time make up only a small fraction of the population," said Chuck Fleeger, AANBV chairman. "And so, if we can mobilize 10,000, 15,000, 20,000- however many people receive that information, now they're also looking for that child and that suspect.”
Fleeger, a retired College Station PD assistant police chief, says departments don’t always have the time or resources to launch a region0wide call to action while simultaneously working to track down leads in a missing child case.
AANBV assists area police not only in seeking Amber Alert statuses for missing children, but also in reaching the community about missing child and missing adult cases that do not qualify for an Amber Alert.
"While everyone is not going to meet Amber Alert [status], it’s still important that we get that word out to the public," Fleeger said. "So that is part of our continued partnership with our local media, through our social media channels, through partnerships with local law enforcement entities.”
AANBV also acts preemptively, using education to prevent child abductions or circumstances that might lead a child to run away. Fleeger says the nonprofit speaks to schools, churches and parent groups about child safety.
The network offers child abduction response training for Brazos Valley law enforcement agencies, and can provide on-scene manpower for search operations.
"The Brazos Valley Amber Alert board actually helps us out in having pre-made fliers," said Brazos County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Paul Martinez. "All we do is attach the basic information of the child and a photograph, and they have all the resources ready that they can send those out.”
AANBV was established in Brazos County approximately 18 years ago, and has grown and solidified into a 501(c) powered by first responders and media members.
The organization has helped bring numerous children safely home, including kids like 3-year-old Adeline Welch.
"Our thought process is, even if it is not an Amber Alert, it is still imperative that that child... that they’re returned to where they’re supposed to be," said Fleeger. "Because everybody matters.”