AMBER Alerts: Why was the Heidi Todd case not listed?

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Several Live 5 viewers questioned why an AMBER Alert was not issued for 4-year-old Heidi Todd.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said in a news conference Wednesday that Todd's case did not meet the recommended criteria for an AMBER Alert because investigators do not have a solid description of suspect's vehicle.

According to the guidelines for issuing AMBER Alerts, "The law enforcement agency must have enough information to believe that an immediate broadcast to the public will enhance the efforts of law enforcement to locate the child and apprehend the suspect. This element requires as much descriptive information as possible about the abducted child and the abduction, as well as descriptive information about the suspect and the suspect's vehicle."

In addition, the guidelines state,"Issuing alerts in the absence of significant information that an abduction has occurred could lead to abuse of the system and ultimately weaken its effectiveness."

Here is a summary of Department of Justice's Recommended Criteria for an AMBER Alert:

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
  • The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
  • The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
  • The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.

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According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 887 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the AMBER Alert program, including 45 recovers credited to the wireless emergency alert program.

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