An AMBER Alert was issued late Tuesday night for Dulce Alavez, a missing 5-year-old girl from Bridgeton. But what exactly is an AMBER Alert and why wasn't one issued as soon as the child was first reported missing?

Most people think of an AMBER Alert as something that is issued every time a child goes missing, but that is not necessarily the case.

According to the New Jersey State Police, "the AMBER Plan is a voluntary, cooperative program between the law enforcement community and the broadcast media to send an emergency alert, called “AMBER Alert,” to the public when a child has been abducted and it is believed that the child’s life is in grave danger." Additionally, "AMBER Alerts are intended to be issued when there is reason to believe that a child has been abducted and may be in danger of death or serious bodily injury. AMBER Alerts are not intended for all missing child incidents, runaways, or child custody situations..."

Specifically, there are some guidelines that have to be met before an AMBER Alert is sent-out to the public:

  • There is reason to believe that a child under the age of 18 has been abducted.
  • There is reason to believe that the abducted child may be in danger of death or serious bodily injury.
  • There is reason to believe that an AMBER Alert would assist in locating the child considering all relevant circumstances, including whether there is enough descriptive information available, and the amount of time that has elapsed since the child was last seen and was reported missing.

Beyond that, there are additional guidelines in place for abductions that involve family members.

The AMBER Plan was created in the mid-90s as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, a girl who was kidnapped Texas and murdered. Members of the community contacted local radio stations in the Dallas area and suggested they broadcast special alerts to help prevent such incidents in the future, thus the beginning of the AMBER Alert program. According to WPVI-TV, nearly 1,000 children have been saved by AMBER Alerts.

In the case of the missing 5-year-old girl from Bridgeton, she was initially reported missing around 5:00 Monday evening, but it wasn't until late Tuesday night that authorities issued an official AMBER alert. According to Bridgeton Chief of Police Michael Gaimari, the alert was issued as a result of interviewing and re-interviewing people who were in a park near where the child went missing on Monday afternoon. Those interviews resulted in information that the child may have been abducted and information on a suspect and a vehicle description became available.

If you have any information regarding 5-year-old Dulce Alavez, you are urged to immediately call 911 or Bridgeton Police at (856) 451-0033.

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