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Current Amber Alert System Called Into Question; Did It Fail Relisha Rudd?

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Linh Bui joined WJZ Eyewitness News in July 2013 as a weekend anchor...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Debate over the country’s Amber Alert system. Does it really save lives?

Linh Bui reports the father of a murdered child says the system is broken and should be dismantled.

More than 70 percent of abducted children are killed in the first three hours. One father says the Amber Alerts don’t go out fast enough.

In 1993, 12-year-old Polly Klaas was abducted from her California bedroom. Her murder helped prompt the call for Amber Alerts. But according to her father, Mark:

“There’s no question the Amber Alert is broken. Its foundation is broken,” Mark Klaas said.

Klaas says the current system would not have saved his daughter and did not work for Relisha Rudd, the D.C. girl who went missing in March. The Amber Alert did not go out until three hours after police found the suspect’s wife dead.

Klaas says restrictions and bureaucracy waste too much time. But Amber Alert officials disagree, saying the system has saved nearly 700 children.

“When a child is missing or a child’s been abducted, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” said Bob Hoever, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “The more eyes and ears you have out there searching for that child, the smaller the haystack becomes and the better our chances are of successfully rescuing that child.”

One example is Baltimore County 11-year-old Caitlyn Virts. Police say her father abducted her in March. Within 48 hours, they were found in a South Carolina hotel.

The hotel owner had seen the Amber Alert on Facebook and called police.

“We don’t have one or two or five or 10 police officers searching for a child, we have entire communities searching for that child,” Hoever said.

But Klaas says those officers on the street should be able to sound the alarm themselves, instead of going through time-consuming layers of approval, and he wants more cases to qualify.

“The Amber Alert we have right now would not have helped Polly, it would not have helped Adam Walsh, it would not have helped Elizabeth Smart,” Klaas said.

He says the system needs to speed up communications to save more lives.

Amber Alert officials say general restrictions are needed to keep the public from being overwhelmed with false alarms.

To qualify for an Amber Alert, the missing child must be in imminent danger. Also, police must have a description of the abductor and the suspect’s vehicle.

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