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Hailey's Law to Change Amber Alert System

In February, the Springfield community came together for a candlelight march and vigil for Hailey Owens [Photo credit: Briana
In February, the Springfield community came together for a candlelight march and vigil for Hailey Owens [Photo credit: Briana

Supporters of a new bill say in those critical moments right after a kidnapping, the process for filing an Amber Alert can be time consuming.

Legislation sponsored by Springfield Republican Representative Eric Burlison, part of which would establish Hailey’s Law, would speed up the process for reporting a child abduction.

“In the case of Hailey Owens it took more than a couple of hours and that’s too long, with this bill it will reduce it down to a matter of just minutes,” Burlison said.

The bill would also add two seats to the Amber Alert Oversight Committee and require the committee to meet at least once per year to examine the procedure.

Current procedure requires a form to be filled out and faxed or emailed to Missouri Highway Patrol headquarters in Jefferson City. Law enforcement then determines if the details provided meet the necessary criteria to issuing an Amber Alert, including confirmation that the child has been abducted, he/she is 17 years old or younger, in imminent danger, and there is enough descriptive information about the child and abductor.

Tim Hull is a spokesman with the Missouri Highway Patrol.

“The Amber Alert is designed for those four specific pieces of criteria and if we start issuing Amber Alerts and not abiding by these criteria people are going to stop paying attention to the sensitivity to the situation,” Hull said.

There is a separate protocol in place for if a child or person does not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert. That’s a notice for an endangered person.

Burlison said he wants to expedite the paperwork process by integrating the Amber Alert system into the computer system used by Missouri law enforcement.

“This bill will bypass all of that together… we’re basically integrating directly the software the officers in the field and the local sheriffs and police department use.We’re integrating their software directly to Highway Patrol,” Burlison said.

Burlison said it is unlikely for the bill to move forward this session, but it could be added to another bill with similar language.

For KSMU News, I’m Briana Simmons.