Dozens of law enforcement officers met in Urbandale Tuesday to learn about a new tool for locating missing persons.
The alert system, run by a nationwide nonprofit organization called "A Child Is Missing," is designed for circumstances when an Amber Alert is not warranted.
Urbandale Police Sergeant Dave Disney says authorities are hesitant to overuse the Amber Alert system, because the public may begin to disregard those notices.
"That’s true, you don’t want to cry wolf too often," Disney said. "With Amber Alerts, you need to have the criteria that the child is under 18 and is in imminent danger, plus enough information about the suspect or suspect vehicle. This goes beyond that, maybe more simple situations that don’t fit the (Amber Alert) criteria."
The "A Child Is Missing" alert involves a computer mapping system and places phone calls to homes and businesses in the immediate area where someone has gone missing.
"They just flood an area with one-thousand calls in 60 seconds," Disney said. "It just gets the information out to the public in that vicinity that we have situation where someone has wandered away, is potentially in jeopardy, and we need the public’s assistance to location the person as soon as possible."
The alert supplements notifications sent to the media. It can be used to help locate missing children, college students on campus, missing persons who are mentally or physically challenged, or an elderly person that suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. Iowans can register to have the system call their cell phone by logging on to www.achildismissing.org .
According to the website, the alert system has been credited by law enforcement with nearly 430 safe assisted recoveries across the country since 1997.