Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 30, 2013

Amber Alert — Expansion a logical move

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— A proposal by lawmakers in Charleston to expand the state’s Amber Alert system is both logical and welcomed. The proposed change would allow for alerts to be issued to notify police and the public about missing children.

Existing law allows only for an Amber Alert to be issued when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger.

The broadcasts currently include information about the child and details about the abductor, such as a physical description and vehicle information.

 But all children who are missing should be considered endangered until they are found. That’s why the expanded Amber Alert system makes a lot of sense.

The measure was advanced in the House of Delegates last week by a vote of 98-0 after lawmakers were told about the tragic story of Skylar Neese. Last summer, the teenager vanished from her family’s Star City apartment, only to turn up dead across the state line in Pennsylvania.

Skylar was no stranger to lawmakers, and in fact, served as a page eight years ago in the House, assigned to Delegate Charlene Marshall, D-Monongalia, the Register-Herald in Beckley reported.

Holding up a color photograph of the teenager, Marshall addressed her fellow lawmakers last week.

She correctly noted that laws aimed at beefing up law enforcement capacities are one reason why the Legislature exists, including the so-called Skylar’s Law.

Skylar was last seen climbing into a motor vehicle near her home, and she left without taking glasses, medications or other personal effects that would suggest a planned visit, Marshall said. However, the child was simply considered a runaway.

Had an Amber Alert been issued, state and federal officials across the nation would have been notified immediately of the missing teen.

“This is simply unacceptable,” Marshall said. “Skylar’s story is a horribly tragic one. I can’t begin to imagine the pain her parents and family members have suffered.”

Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, correctly noted that the first 24 hours after a child turns up missing is “very, very important.”

That’s why expanding the Amber Alert system makes sense. If a child is missing, all available resources should be utilized in finding and ensuring a safe recovery of the juvenile. An Amber Alert would bring immediate attention to a missing child not only on the state level, but across the nation.