Shriek! Texts on missing kids startle cell users

By Tami Abdollah

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 1 2013 10:24 a.m. MST

Ferrero said he's seen the stir caused by the alerts when they caught people off guard in Florida and Texas, where four have already been issued. He said FEMA needs to tell the public about the system, and has sent in suggestions to improve the program such as providing people with details like the license plate or where the abduction occurred.

Los Angeles Police Department Det. Kevin Coffey trained local law enforcement officers on the alerts last week and found most were surprised by the new reach they already have.

"We've never had this ability," Coffey said. "We're going to have instantaneous connectivity with every person with a cellphone within our county and potentially multiple counties in the state."

Timothy Griffin, a professor of criminal justice at University of Nevada, Reno has studied Amber Alerts for the last eight years. He said he favors an Amber Alert system that's more targeted, but his research also questions whether the system's effectiveness has been oversold.

"Amber Alerts, in most cases, make no difference whatsoever," Griffin said. "Even when you look at ones where Amber Alerts make a different, it doesn't happen fast, within that crucial three-hour difference" that the alerts are supposed to target. But he said he's hoping this system will prove him wrong.

Tami Abdollah can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/latams

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