When 5-year-old Malachi Quintanilla went missing earlier this week, it took seven hours for the missing child alert to go out, according to Sylacauga Police.
Missing child alerts are sent out by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Fusion Center. ALEA reportedly got the request from Sylacauga Police late Monday night and responded within 16 minutes. They say it took seven hours because of problems on the local police department’s end.
“Anytime there is an abduction, there’s that thought you hope you’re on the right track, but if you’re not how is this going to end?” Sylacauga Police Chief Kelley Johnson said.
When AMBER Alerts go out, police believe the child is in immediate danger. The alert will need to include detailed information and descriptions.
In 2017, an abduction case that didn’t trigger an AMBER Alert grabbed the attention of Governor Kay Ivey who revised the alert rules.
But an AMBER Alert didn’t go out in Quintanilla‘s abduction either, and police say it was due to a lack of information.
“We didn’t have anything to put into the AMBER Alert system other than the child’s description and his name,” Chief Johnson explained. “We didn’t know vehicle description, tag, [or[ direction of travel.”
Lack of information was just one of the problems police faced with getting the word out about Quintanilla.
“We weren’t able to get the stuff entered because the system was down. Why the system was down? I don’t know,” Chief Johnson said. “It goes down regularly, whether it’s for maintenance, problems, or updates.”
Sharon Tinsley with the Alabama Broadcasters Association said they work closely with ALEA on these alerts. She said more training could be very helpful in these situations.
“One of the things that I hope we can be helpful to law enforcement is to make more local law enforcement aware of the process through ALEA so that they know they can reach up to the state for help,” said Tinsley.
Chief Johnson said the department takes some responsibility for the delay in the missing child alert, but they say it’s a learning experience.
“We hadn’t used it in a while, so maybe we didn’t remember everything we should have done,” said Johnson.