The panic a parent goes through when their child is unexpectedly gone from their side and nowhere to be found can only be described as a living nightmare. Questions start flying about in the parent's mind on what to do, with the overarching and desperate question being, "What's happened to my baby?"
The Arkansas State Police, in conjunction with www. arkansas.gov (Information Network of Arkansas, INA), is working to get missing children back to their families through the improved Morgan Nick Amber Alert activation system.
The alert system is named after Morgan Nick, a six-year-old girl who was abducted June 9, 1995, while she was playing at a baseball field in Alma, Ark., with her friends. According to the Morgan Nick Amber Alert Field Operations Manuel, Morgan was catching fireflies with her friends at the baseball park when she went missing. "Although Morgan has not been located, from the search for this child grew a spirit of dedication from state and community leaders, law enforcement agencies across the state and Colleen Nick, Morgan's mother, to insure Arkansas parents and law enforcement have a means to quickly spread the word when a child is abducted," according to the Morgan Nick Amber Alert Web site.
"The MNAA system was among the first in the country to use the Emergency Alert System (EAS) which allows the state police to interrupt local radio and television programming to provide information to the public about abducted children facing imminent threat of harm or danger," according to the Arkansas State Police.
The alert system can also send out mass e-mails to newspapers and news organizations so they can get the information to the public about any missing child that may be in danger. The general public can also receive these e-mails if they have subscribed to them. These e-mails would contain information about what the child or the suspect looks like and when and where the child was last seen along with contact information for anyone who might know where the child is.
"Technology advancements over the last couple of years have allowed us to combine the alert activation processes into a single distribution point," Major Cleve Barfield, commander of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division said. "What once required three or four people at all hours of the day and night becoming involved to issue an alert has been consolidated now into a single point of contact."
With the aid of the Internet, the state police now has the ability to multitask using one person to send out a message through the Emergency Alert System, distribute photos of the missing child or suspect, maintain a Web site and send mass e-mail alerts in less than 10 minutes.
Another new addition to the alert system allows the public to make a choice: To subscribe or not to subscribe? The public now has the option of subscribing their e-mail address through the Morgan Nick Amber Alert Web site (https:// www.ark.org/asp/alerts/mnaa/index.php). When the state police issues an alert or update on a current alert, those who have subscribed their e-mail addresses will receive an e-mail in their inbox giving them information about the missing child.
"We are asking as many Arkansans as possible to register for the e-mail alerts," Colonel Winford Phillips, director of the Arkansas State Police, said. "With the continued growth of wireless communication networks, we believe it is vital to share with the public, particularly those people who carry mobile devices, the first information about missing or abducted children. These people see and hear things in so many places and their reports back to us when a child goes missing are always invaluable."
According to the Arkansas State Police, "Private businesses that may have electronic messaging systems inside their service fleets or carried by their personnel are especially encouraged to register at the Web site."
"We are living in a very mobile society and it only makes sense to, as quickly as possible, reach out to the public, give them the first facts as we know them about the case and ask for their help," Major Barfield said. "We know from experience that the first hour after a child is reported missing or abducted is the most critical if we're going to successfully find the trail of a suspect or an area where the child may be located."
Salem Police Chief Albert Roork said about nine out of 10 times information that is received by the public helps solve crimes.
"(The e-mail alert system) would be a very good thing because there's not enough police to go around," Roork said. "We always rely on the public because they are our greatest allies."