Did you know that out of the 880 missing children listed in Washington, approximately 90% are runaway youth? Washington State Patrol AMBER Alert Program Manager Carri Gordon explains that – believe it or not – a lot of kids are never reported missing to law enforcement.

“What we hear a lot is ‘parents may think they know where their child is, and that law enforcement wouldn’t take the report,’” says Gordon.

“However ALL missing children should be reported to law enforcement. Children are so vulnerable due to age and maturity and their location and safety are of the utmost importance.”

What To Do If Your Child Goes Missing
Call 9-1-1 Immediately. We’ve had a lot of people ask us if it’s true there is a 24 hour waiting period before you can report someone missing. This is a myth. There is absolutely no waiting to report anyone missing (children or adults).

It’s important that as soon as a child goes missing, you call the local authorities. A missing child is 100% an emergency. The investigating agency will then notify other partners (FBI, etc.) if appropriate.

When you’re on the phone with law enforcement, be sure to provide the following pieces of information:
• When and where the child was last seen
• Who they were with or who they may be with
• Clothing last seen wearing
• If there is a history of drug use
• Is there is a pattern of running away
• An updated (candid if possible) photo
• Passwords to electronic devices or social media accounts

After reporting the incident, parents and close family and friends should search their own homes for any place a child might hide, such as a car, closet, etc.

WSP’s Role
The Washington State Patrol is designated as the Washington State Missing Person’s Clearinghouse. Meaning, the WSP assists local agencies with investigations that include (but are not limited to) case analysis, dental record repository, child safety information, etc. However, the most notable role we play is the distribution of AMBER Alerts.

AMBER Alerts
According to the AMBER Alert website, “The AMBER Alert Program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child.”

In Washington State, the issuing of AMBER Alerts begins when a local law enforcement agency determines if an alert needs to go out. The local law enforcement agency will then activate the system by calling WSP dispatchers, who will enter the information and send it out via email, fax, and yes, sometimes through cellphones. The alert provides details concerning the child and the perpetrator (if known), including descriptive information. The AMBER Alert system utilizes the combined power of technology, the media, law enforcement, and the public. The ultimate goal of an AMBER Alert is to ensure the safe return of the child.

Our Goal
“Statistics have shown that issuing an AMBER Alert works. Getting the public involved and the thousands of additional eyes looking for missing children has been a key factor in the safe recovery of abducted children. Law enforcement needs your help. On National Missing Children’s Day we bring attention to those children who still need to come home! We won’t rest until all missing children have been located,” says Gordon.