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How effective are Utah AMBER alerts and what situations qualify for one

Posted at 5:43 PM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 20:27:10-04

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — With the success of an AMBER alert involving a missing teenage girl from Magna, FOX 13 News looked at what situations qualify for these alerts and just how effective they are.

“Keypoint with an Amber Alert right is it's often that we're letting the public know,” Mandy Biesinger, Field Supervisor for the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification said. “Then they become eyes and ears looking for that suspect looking for that child.”

While individual law enforcement agencies are the ones that are able to classify a case as an Amber Alert, it's the Bureau of Criminal Identification in Taylorsville that sends it to your phone and to road signs.

“My position oversees the Utah Criminal Justice Information System otherwise known as UCJIS," Biesinger explained. "We are over the missing person clearinghouse for the state of Utah and the Amber Alert program.”

In order to issue the alert the case needs four qualifiers.

First, the child involved must be 17-years-old or younger. The victim has to have been abducted and considered to be in imminent danger. Lastly, there must be identifying information in the case.

“So it's different than just a missing juvenile for example,” Biesinger said. “Because it has that those four conditions that also apply.”

The Amber alert issued on Tuesday for a missing teenage girl out of Magna initially didn’t meet those requirements because the initial report was that the teen left on her own free will.

That changed after Unified Police determined she might have been coerced.

Recently another case in Roosevelt of a teen leaving with an older man was also considered for an Amber alert but local law enforcement made the decision to not go forward because she left of her own free will.

In total, there have been 66 Amber Alerts issued in the state of Utah involving 79 children. Of those children, 76 of them have been recovered alive which equals to a 96% success rate.

Utah was an early adopter of the program and the system was first used on a very high profile case.

Read - Should Utah AMBER Alert requirements be revised?

“Our first [case] was actually Elizabeth smart,” Biesinger told FOX 13 News Wednesday.

Often times it is the public tips that lead to someone being found.

“There are multiple success stories," Biesinger said. "We even had one that was recovered in the McDonald's parking lot here that shares with our bureau and it was because of a patron here that got the Amber Alert.”

Issuing an Amber alert also helps connect with out-of-state partners and the FBI to alert law enforcement of the possibility that child and their kidnappers are heading out of state.

Ultimately it's an important tool to make sure that if someone is kidnapped, they are found quickly with the public help.

“We're just grateful," Biesinger said. "Grateful to our law enforcement partners and to the public for those tips that come in and result in that safe and fast recovery of the child.”