Texas’ Spike of Amber Alerts

This article was originally published on July 11, 2020.

As of June 10th, thirteen AMBER Alerts have set off in the state of Texas with sixteen children being taken. The alarmingly high number is even more alarming when compared to years prior. Based on resources, in the same time frame during 2019, only seven kidnappings took place with about eight children abducted. This means that the number has doubled. Though it was still troubling before, it appears that the numbers of kidnapping are increasing and it’s important we learn more about it to stay safe.

In 1996, a 9-year-old girl named Amber Haggerton was abducted and murdered, drawing a major response from those living in Arlington Texas, where she was taken. This devastating incident created AMBER Alerts and we have continued to use them when necessary. While being named after Amber Haggerton, AMBER Alerts stand for, “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.”

Even though this information might spark fear for some, it’s important to know that not all AMBER Alerts are caused by kidnappings. CBS19 wrote things that Leemie Khang-Sofer, who is a part of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, had stated. She said, “At least, the ones in Texas we’ve recently seen, a lot of them are family abduction-related,” She states that it usually means that a parent who doesn’t have custody over the child has the child.

While it would seem that the reason for the recent spike in Texas’ AMBER Alerts could be correlated to COVID-19, Leemie Khang-Sofer also stated, “For the particular AMBER Alerts we haven’t seen, necessarily, anything where COVID-19 or anything having to do with the restrictions really contributed to the taking event.” Therefore, we can’t claim the reasoning has to do completely with the pandemic. Khang-Sofer claims that the spike could, however, be reliant on the fact that many adolescents are eager to get out of the house and run away. She said, “And then we’ve seen where there are youth centers or group homes that have been shut down due to pandemic concerns. And, therefore, this leads to the child being placed elsewhere. That then prompts them to leaving that facility.” There is a wide range of reasons why Amber Alerts have increased, but regardless, the number is still shocking and not spoken of enough.

One frontman father, Carl Lindquist, spoke about the importance of parents educating their children on what to do in order to stay safe. He mentions, “It’s something that as parents in the hustle and bustle of everyday life seems easy to overlook,” thus showing that sometimes parents forget to talk about this topic. With the increase of AMBER Alerts and with the pandemic, safety is becoming more and more vital. He recommends, “Teach children that unfamiliar adults should never need help from a child — not to find a lost animal or for anything else.” Therefore, parents should help in teaching their children ways to be cautious and avoid untrustworthy strangers.

Overall, it’s important to stay safe during this time and to report any suspicious behavior you encounter. Khang-Sofer continues by saying, “Keep your ear to the ground, your eyes focused. To the extent that you’re out, you see something, and you get an alert, then, you see the child or the abductor or the vehicle they may be in, to report that right away.” In addition, we are fortunate that although two of the sixteen abducted children died, fourteen were able to come home safely. In this uncertain era, it’s important we keep ourselves safe but continue to look at the positives.