The lasting legacy of Amber Alerts and how they've changed over the years

Amber Haggerman
Posted at 11:04 AM, Apr 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-03 11:16:29-04

WACO, TX — Amber Alerts have changed the search for missing children but some complain the system has drawbacks.

When an Amber alert involving her neighborhood broke the quiet of her Sunday morning, Becky DeLeon saw more than just the city mobilize.

”The whole community was looking for her the whole city of Waco. I saw all friends from Dallas Fort Worth area sharing her posts and even out of state sharing our local news on that Amber Alert,” she said.

Computers, cell phones and social media all became "game changers" in the search for missing children.

”Sunday, just within the first hour of our Facebook post going up the Facebook post itself reached 40,000 views as of this morning it's reached over 105,000 views. The biggest thing that it did was it brought attention to more than just, law enforcement, and that was the goal and the purpose behind it,” explained Officer Garen Bynum, of the Waco Police Department.

All those extra eyes and ears often bring big results.

”It's one of those where we would rather be inundated with information that we have to sift through. Then we would not to get any information at all,” explained Austin Evans, of the Waco Police Crimes Against Children Unit.

Is there a downside to an Amber Alert? Well, like any report to a police department it becomes a public record and can live online forever.

It's the trade-off we make, because non-investigative records created by a public body like the police department, technically, belong to all of us.

Some fear people could use that public information to harass the subject of the alerts, but police say, balance that, with having them alive to grow into adults in the first place.

”Anytime you pick up a phone to call the police, it goes into public record. Absolutely. So this is no different than picking up a phone say hey I need the police there's been an actually, whatever, ” explained Bynum. He says descriptions get outdated, but at the time, they get results.

”The end of the day. Is it worth it? And the answer is absolutely. Our goal is to find these kids as quickly and as safely as possible. These are dire situations and these kids are in immediate danger and we've got to, we've got to get over that hurdle to get it out," said Bynum, meantime, if you'd like to help, police want to hear from you.

”If you're wanting to step up and help with a certain situation like an Amber Alert, reach out to that local agency and ask, you know, How can I be of assistance in this problem,” said the police spokesman.

To borrow a phrase, it really does "take a village".

”There's so much networking within our community as well, that people are looking out for each other and for each other's children,” said Becky DeLeon.

And what's more, it's working.