Today marks day four of the search for missing Iowa girls Lyric Cook Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins. The cousins, ages 10 and 8, were supposed to be on a bike ride when they went missing on Friday, and no one has seen them since. So why hasn't an Amber Alert been issued?
Well, because their case doesn't fit the "profile." Cops in Evansdale, Iowa say they don't have a car or person associated with Lyric and Elizabeth's disappearance. So they can't put their information out in the form of an Amber Alert.
Basically that means police are working with very little information in a search that's brought out almost 1,000 volunteers to help the family of these little girls get them back. Wouldn't you think they'd want more info? The kind you'd get from, say, an alert that goes out to thousands upon thousands of people?
I'm not in law enforcement. I don't know why it's built this way. But I will say this is what makes the Amber Alert system so confusing to me.
The Department of Justice has worked long and hard to make us aware that it works and convince Americans to pay attention. They now have an enormous reach, from apps that help reach out to wireless users to traffic signs.
Amber Alert has become, for all intents and purposes, synonymous with missing children ... to the point where I know more than one person who checks the site each time they see a "missing kid" warning come across Facebook to fact check before they pass it along. It's like the Snopes of the missing kid world.
So why don't they use it more?
If you go to the Amber Alert website today and click on the link for "active" alerts, it says there are none. The girls are listed on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children site (which also hosts Amber Alerts). That's a wonderful and helpful thing, and I don't mean to denigrate the work they do.
But if you're using the site to fact check the missing report to help some kids, you're going to be steered wrong. And if you depend on Amber Alerts to alert you so you can help some kids, well, you won't be able to do a thing for Lyric or Elizabeth.
As a parent and an American both, I'm glad we have this system. It has saved a lot of kids!
But as Iowa police struggle with only the girls' bikes and Elizabeth's purse, found by a firefighter on a bike trail near Meyers Lake, I can't help wondering if it's time to revamp it so we can help more kids.
In the meantime, will you pass along the missing poster for these girls? Did you know Amber Alert doesn't cover every missing kid?
Image via Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office