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Are Amber Alerts being overused?

Dori thinks we need to reevaluate the Amber Alert system so it's not scaring people. (WSDOT Flickr)

An Amber Alert issued by Mill Creek police on Thursday afternoon for two children and their mentally ill mother has Dori wondering if the system is being overused.

He fears people will start ignoring it if they are too frequent.

“I think it should be generally reserved for stranger abduction or when a child is in grave danger,” Dori said. “They’re activating it all the time and they’re scaring us to death with these alerts.”

Dori was referring to the phone alerts that ring out when the system is activated.

Dori says he’s heard from a lot of Seattle area listeners who were frightened by the alerts.

Deborah writes:
I jumped about six feet. I had to silence mine.

Thomas in Renton writes:
The Amber Alert alarm always scares me, especially when it goes off in the middle of the night. I’m thinking World War III is about to start.

Jeff in Woodinville writes:
Dori, the Amber Alert went off when I was at work and I thought it was a fire alarm. They got to work on that system.

Lance in Seattle writes:
I was having coffee with three coworkers when the Amber Alert happened. We all carry a company issued phone and a personal phone. The sound of those eight phones going off scared the bleep out of us all.

“All I’m saying is the more it’s used, the more we will disregard it. It’s not something I think people are going to remain vigilante about if we get Amber Alerts every few days.”

Prior to Thursday’s alert, the last Amber Alert was issued in Everett on Feb. 13 for a newborn baby police say was born in a hotel to a meth addicted mother. The baby was in need of medical attention.

An Amber Alert was issued on Jan. 16 for a Rhode Island boy believed to be headed to Washington state with his mother. The mother had shared custody with the boy’s father but skipped a court date and failed to return. The alert cited an “immediate risk of harm” to both the mother and boy.

Kennewick police issued an Amber Alert Dec. 5 for a 14-year-old girl believed headed to Mexico with a 19-year-old man.

Tina in Fall City writes:
I’m retired law enforcement and was on the team that helped develop the Amber Alert. I somewhat agree that the alert may appear to be overused, but the decision to activate is based on specific criteria. Custodial interference is not a criteria to activate, however, if there’s fear of injury or death in the opinion of the law enforcement agency they will activate the Amber Alert system.

“I do think it’s overused and I do think we need to fix the fact that it’s scaring a lot of people,” Dori said.

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