Now there's a new way to track down kidnapped children in Oklahoma. Governor Frank Keating announced Tuesday that the state will start using the Amber Alert Plan. It's an early warning system for abducted children that harnesses the communication power of television and radio.
When a man stole Diane and Allen Gorenflo's truck which happened to have their baby Cassie inside, they felt helpless. "Everything went through my mind. I thought the worst imaginable," said Mrs. Gorenflo. Police notified all television and radio stations in Tulsa, and they immediately broke into programming to give viewers and listeners descriptions of the truck and baby. However, there was still a delay. "One minute your daughter is gone and it terrifies you," said Gorenflo. "You just panic, go into a total panic."
The new Amber Alert will be immediate. When a child is kidnapped, state law officers will use the Emergency Alert System to notify all the radio and TV stations in the state. Those stations will sound the alert during the first five hours. Thousands of people will get the information immediately and can be on the lookout.
Some people worry that the alert will be sounded every time a teenager runs away or is taken by a parent in a custody battle. Police say they will make sure the child has been stolen and is in harm's way before sounding the alert.
Such an alert might have made a difference in the Morgan Nick case. She's the six-year-old girl abducted from a ballpark in Alma, Arkansas in 1995. Nick still hasn't been found. The alert might have saved Justin Wiles' life. His parents reported him missing in 1989. His body was found three days later in Bixhoma Lake. Wiles' killer has still hasn't been caught.
The Gorenflos know first-hand how quickly things can go terribly wrong. They fully support the Amber Alert. "This isn't a mall we're looking in," said Gorenflo. "This guy is in a truck and he could be anywhere. There's no way you can do it alone."
With Tulsa participating in the Amber Alert, as a community may increase the chances of more happy endings like the Gorenflos. The Amber Alert is named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted from her home in the Dallas area in 1996.