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Amber Alert vs. Silver Alert: What’s the difference?

INDIANAPOLIS — Every time a child is reported missing in Indiana police have consider what information they have available in order to determine what type of alert will be issued.

And one of the most-asked questions when any missing child report is issued is “why haven’t police issued an Amber Alert?” To answer that question, you have to get into the details surrounding the incident.

There are specific details police must take into account when trying to determine whether or not to issue an alert at all, whether it be an Amber Alert or a Silver Alert.

According to the State of Indiana, one of the Amber Alert criteria is that the child must be believed to be abducted and in danger of serious bodily harm or death. Police also need to have information about a suspect and their car to issue an Amber Alert.

Silver Alerts are for missing and endangered adults or children. They are much more common for missing people, especially since the standards for Silver Alerts were expanded to include children in 2018.

In both situations, these alerts must be issued by police.

Law enforcement only use the Amber Alert in the most extreme cases, because they don’t want people to ignore the alerts when they are issued.

So what are the specific differences? We break them down below.

Amber Alert

Amber Alerts are generally activated for kids who have been abducted or who are in danger and only if police have detailed information about a suspect. Those Amber Alerts trigger a massive response, including text messages, a message on the INDOT highway boards, social media and an announcement on television and other media channels.

In order for an Amber Alert to be activated, the following criteria MUST be met:

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred
  • The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child
  • The victim of the abduction is a child aged 17 years of younger
  • The child’s name and other critical elements, including Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center system

Silver Alert

Silver Alerts were previously only issued for “vulnerable adults” who were believed to be in danger, but a 2018 law expanded the Silver Alert program to include “missing endangered children” which means any child who is believed to be incapable of returning home without assistance because of mental illness, intellectual disability or another physical or mental disability.

Silver Alerts get a news release, social media and media attention.

READ | Missing endangered children now included in Indiana Silver Alert criteria

The change in law also resulted in an overall shift in the Silver Alert criteria:

  • Person must be a missing endangered adult, missing endangered child, high risk missing person or have a mental impairment validated through a credible medical authority (physician, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner)
  • There must be enough descriptive information to believe the broadcast will help
  • Law enforcement must make the request
  • The person will be added to the Indiana Data and Communications System/National Crime Information Center

Indiana State Police offer the following recommendations regarding any missing person:

  • Contact local law enforcement immediately
  • Consider using social media to spread the word
  • Routinely keep updated images of your children and immediate family members
  • Routinely keep in contact with those who may be suffering from a mental or physical impairment
  • Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678

Anyone with information about Amiah’s disappearance should contact IMPD Missing Persons at 317-327-6160, 317-327-3811 or Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-8477.

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