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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
9:26 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Amber Alert is great resource, not a toy

Go figure. As with anything good, someone usually twists it for his or her own desires.

I'm sure you've heard of the Amber Alert system, which sends out messages through the media and other outlets statewide about missing children. The idea is that a citizen's tip can help authorities find the child before their alleged abductor gets away with them (or worse, harms them).

While putting the newspaper together Monday morning, one of our copy editors, Ruth Evans, and I were scanning the Associated Press wire but could not find anything about the Amber Alert that Ruth said flashed across her television screen Sunday night.

A girl, missing? Abducted? Maybe out of Glendale? She wasn't sure.

Understand that when anything involving children in distress comes to our attention we sit up and take notice; but, still, the wire had nothing about it.

When the story moved – too late for Monday's edition of the Courier – we finally knew the rest of the story.

Apparently, the AP said, police arrested a 12-year-old girl and her older sister after allegedly faking the younger girl's abduction.

That's right, it seems they lied.

The sister called 911 around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, police told the AP, saying someone had abducted the 12-year-old from a convenience store.

And, rightly so, based on the report, police activated the Amber Alert system.

By the way, it was in Glendale, but don't assume an alleged abductor could not drive to the Prescott area with the child. (In fact, just this past week – based on a citizen's tip, Prescott Police officers arrested two people out of Tempe on armed robbery charges. Where did police find them? On Prescott's Whiskey Row.)

As for the Glendale girl, about three hours after her sister called police, the article said someone who had heard the alert saw the girl in a home's front yard and called the police. The younger girl admitted the abduction was a hoax after detectives found discrepancies in her story.

But here's the kicker: The 12-year-old apparently concocted the story because she wanted to be "out with friends," the AP quoted a detective as saying.

This stands as the first "abuse" of the Amber Alert in its 14 months in Arizona, said Prescott Police Sgt. Mike Kabbel, who is on the Amber Alert oversight committee and hopes that news of what happened will prevent widespread abuse of the system.

Amber Alerts are "there to assist in the safe retrieval of the victim," Kabbel said. And, if someone gives a false report, it "affects numerous people."

Kabbel said Amber Alerts involve a host of agencies and efforts. The state lottery sends messages to all of its terminals, the Department of Public Safety puts alerts on highway warning signs, radio and TV stations air notices through the Emergency Broadcast System, and all law enforcement agencies receive teletypes … "so many people are looking for this vehicle."

That, ultimately, causes police officers, "instead of enforcing laws, to be out looking for this child's safe return."

And, she just wanted to have some fun, huh?!

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PARTING SHOT – Where are the two Glendale girls now? They are new residents in a Phoenix-area juvenile detention center. Police are investigating them on charges of false reporting.

Contact the columnist at twieds@prescottaz.com