Friday, August 26, 2011

Amber Alert / Missing Child Frustration

Two things happened this week that have really got me a little upset over the way our country deals with missing children.  Should I be upset?  Should YOU be upset?  I'll let you decide.

The first was a FB post made by a friend of mine.  She lives in San Diego and last Monday was in Target when a young girl approached her and asked if she had her ID on her.  My friend didn't go into detail of why (although she's not the type to buy alcohol for a minor) but did say that six days later she came across an article for a missing local 16 year old girl named Elizabeth Rodriguez, a girl who had been missing for four days when my friend was approached by that young girl in Target.  And this young girl looked a lot like the one that approached my friend.

Immediately my friend called the 800 number given in the article and told the person on the phone of her encounter.  What happened during this phone call is what has me fuming... The dispatcher (a female but my friend didn't mention her name) was dismissive of her and very rude.  Yes, it had been 6 days since the encounter at Target, but it was still something, and it was a sighting that occurred 4 days after she was last seen.  The dispatcher said that someone may call my friend for more details, but to date, they haven't.

I looked up Elizabeth Rodriguez of Spring Valley, CA to see if I could find more details about her and her disappearance.  According to the first article I read she called her dad shortly after midnight to say she was driving home from a party and would be home in a few minutes- she was just a few exits away from home.  She never arrived.

In fact, that was the only mention of Elizabeth Rodriguez that I could find.  As far as I can tell she's still missing, no Amber Alert was issued, and the police think she's a runaway.  Perhaps she is.  But if she was a runaway, why would she call her parents to say she was on her way home?  Why do police jump to the assumption that a missing teen is a runaway?  I understand that many are, and maybe they know something the general public doesn't know, but it still seems so uncaring.

Then yesterday... My mother and I were watching TV when suddenly the show was interrupted.  The screen paused and words started scrolling across the top saying "Amber Alert for All of Minnesota..." and then it started listing areas in western Wisconsin.  We both sat up, waiting to hear more details, it's not very often that this happens.  The details came... about a minute later, in the form of a male's voice.  A 16 year old girl was missing and the suspect was a 17 year old boy in a blue sedan.  That was it.  No other details.  No pictures.

My first thought was "did she run off with her boyfriend?  Is that even considered an abduction?"  I decided to Google her name (Dolla Yang) to see more details.  And the details were scary.  16 year old Dolla Yang was walking down a sidewalk when an asian male in a "boxy blue sedan" pulled up and forced her into the car, and drove off. The article also showed a very attractive young girl.

WTF?!?!  A girl gets forced into the back of a car and none of this is mentioned on TV?  Why waste 2 minutes of my TV watching time with a report that sounds like a teen ran off with her boyfriend when a very serious thing just happened?  Is it really that difficult to add "was forced into the back of a car by a 17 year old suspect" during the alert and flash her picture instead of just freezing the frame on bit player's face?  How many people watching TV that night first thought the same thing I did and then went about their day without getting on their computers to look up the details?  Perhaps they were people who had seen Dolla earlier that day and thought nothing of it!

This has me bothered.  I admire the United States for putting such a strong emphasis on finding missing children.  I'm reading a book right now about a child abduction and it's a difficult read.  I cannot imagine waking up one morning and have no clue where my child is.  No clue if they are alive, if they are safe, if they are in pain... it's a thought I can't even wrap my mind around fully.  So good job to the US for even having the Amber Alerts and program that gets the name out there within a few hours of a disappearance like that.  But why the scant information?  Why the lack of a picture?  If that had been my child that was forced into the back of a car I'd want that detail put in there and I sure as hell would want her picture out there!

Maybe I'm just expecting too much from such a young program.  Maybe changes are in the works but thanks to bureaucracy they are slow in coming.  Maybe the parents requested the image not be used in the Amber Alert.  There are a lot of things I don't know about it, but as a person who cares about other people it's alarming to me.

There is good news to this story.  4 hours after the Amber Alert was issued Dolla Yang was found and the suspect was in custody.  I'm sure it has something to do with the Amber Alert and that's great!  I don't mind have my TV shows interrupted a dozen times a day if it means the stories have happy endings like this.


Katie Barrett said...

A friend of mine in High school disappeared walking home from a nearby store.. Because she had attempted to run away before, the police did not take it seriously.. she had called her mother from the store to ask if she needed anything.. not the tone a girl running away from home!! She was just found (almost 12 years later) in her boyfriends yard, buried under a flower bed... he was questioned.. but they never brought in dogs or anything!! I can't imagine going that long not knowing where my child is, to find out after 12 yrs if the police had done their job, 12 years of anguish wouldn't of happened!! The missing children system of this country scares me! Because of this I stress out WAY too much about my kids, it is so hard to let them out of my sight!

HomemadeBaby said...

That is scary.. and I totally agree with your comments. If your friend saw a possibly missing girl at Target, I would have thought the police would immediately want to see Target security footage - like who was she with, what was she buying, what car did she come and go in, etc. We have so much media available, that could have provided critical information.