Why cellphones weren't activated in Amber Alert for missing East Texas girl


When Kayla Gomez-Orozco, 10, went missing about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, local and state officials activated the state’s Amber Alert system. The alert was issued just after midnight.

But on social media in the following hours, some complained that their cellphones didn’t sound off when the alert was issued. Others received no alert at all.

“No alert on my phone,” one Facebook commenter posted. Another replied, “That’s true we haven’t received any alert on cellphones.”

But Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said the Amber Alert system worked as designed. Cellphone notification doesn’t go out on all Amber Alerts.

“Amber Alert information is forwarded to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and they in turn activate the phone alerts,” Vinger said Wednesday. “A phone alert would not have been sent out in this case because NCMEC requires a full vehicle description, and there was no license plate information available.”

Initial reports included a description of a red Cadillac SUV, but that vehicle is no longer considered a part of the investigation, authorities said.

The DPS’s website explains that the Wireless Emergency Alert system is an initiative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Communications Commission, The Wireless Foundation and the wireless industry to provide mobile customers with notifications regarding presidential, imminent threat and Amber Alerts.

“During an Amber Alert, WEA-capable devices will receive a text-like message within the targeted geographical alert area, providing a vehicle description,” according to the DPS.

Kayla’s case fits the criteria for an Amber Alert. Those criteria include being a “child 13 years of age or younger, who was taken (willingly or unwillingly) without permission from the care and custody of a parent or legal guardian …”

Amber Alerts were named for Amber Hagerman, who was abducted in 1996 in Arlington.

According to the DPS, “In 2002, Gov. Rick Perry created the state’s Amber Alert network per Executive Order RP-16, later codified through legislation in 2003. The Texas Department of Public Safety was given legislative authority to coordinate the state’s Amber Alert network, which served as the role model for the subsequent Silver, Blue and Endangered Missing Persons alert programs.

The “Amber” in Amber Alerts stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.

Twitter: @tmt_roy


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