Change made to Iowa AMBER Alert criteria following Dayton, Evansdale abductions


July 31st, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Law enforcement officials have tweaked the criteria for issuing an AMBER Alert. The review of the criteria for activating an emergency notification to the public when a child is believed to be in danger was prompted by two high-profile kidnapping and murder cases in the state. Iowa State Patrol Major Todd Misel says the result is a “minor change” to one of the four criteria which a missing child case must meet for the activation of an AMBER Alert. The change involves striking the word “and” from the criteria language.

“We want it clarified that there is enough descriptive information about the child, abductor, or the suspect’s vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert will help,” Misel said, noting “and/or” was replaced by simply “or.” “By throwing the word ‘and’ in there, it makes you think that it’s inclusive and you need to have everything. We just want to place an emphasis on that — that’s not the case.” The review of AMBER Alert activations follows the abduction of a 15-year-old Dayton girl on May 20th and the disappearance of two girls in Evansdale in July 2012. All three girls were later found murdered. Many Iowans have questioned why AMBER Alerts were not issued in those two cases.

“In each of those cases…Evansdale, the criteria was really not there for an abduction, we weren’t aware of an abduction,” Misel says. “In Dayton, we were just getting ready to issue the AMBER Alert when we actually located the abductor and his vehicle in that case.” The man suspected in the Dayton kidnapping had hung himself. No one has been arrested in the Evansdale case. Misel says the meeting of the AMBER Alert Criteria Group also included discussion of an increased need for training of all Iowa law enforcement on the AMBER Alert criteria.

“It’s just important to make sure you have a good missing persons policy in place at your department…for example – abductions – when is it right to ask for the AMBER Alert to be issued? It would be a very good topic to train on, on a regular basis,” Misel said. A press release from the Iowa Department of Public Safety states: “It is critical that local agencies notify DPS quickly to increase the chances of a successfully recovering Iowa’s abducted children. Training opportunities will be identified in the near future.”

The AMBER Alert Criteria Group is made up of representatives from the Iowa Sheriff’s and Deputies Association, Iowa Police Chief’s Association, Iowa State Police Association, County Attorney’s Association, Iowa Attorney General’s Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office – Northern District, U.S. Attorney’s Office – Southern District, Iowa State Patrol, Iowa Department of Transportation, and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

(Radio Iowa)