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Md. Amber Alerts Will Soon Be Sent To Cell Phones

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Gigi Barnett anchors the Weekend Morning Edition with Meteorologist...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Smart phones can do almost anything. Police are hoping that more of them will help find missing children.

Gigi Barnett reports the state is enrolling all wireless phones into an Amber Alert database.

Technology has allowed police to use electronic billboards to find missing children. For years, detectives have used some cell phones to send Amber Alerts. Now, starting immediately, state police say all smart phones will receive the emergency messages.

“You look at your phone and you say, `Oh, that’s the kid they’re looking for.’ I think it’s a great idea,” said William Brown.

That’s exactly what detectives are hoping for, and that more people will then dial 911 right away.

“A child who is a typical stranger abduction, they are deceased within three hours,” said Carla Proudfoot, director of the Center for Missing Persons.

Back in October 2011, police used the Amber Alert system in the case of 11-year-old William McQuain. He had been reported missing and officers searched for days. They found the boy’s body in a wooded area in Montgomery County. Police charged his mother’s estranged husband with the murder.

Detectives say with more cell phones in their database, there’s a greater chance they’ll receive more tips on missing children.

And some cell phone users say they’re keeping the phones on.

“We get a lot of emails that come through our phones and we ignore them. We don’t go back and turn them off. So why not keep something that’s good?” said Iris Robinson.

Police say now that the Amer Alerts are received automatically, the phone will make a loud tone. For cell phone owners who don’t want to receive the alerts, there’s an easy way to opt out of the program. Under “notifications,” go to “government alerts” and turn off the Amber Alerts.

In addition to the Amber Alert, the system will also send out a short text message with basic information on missing children.

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