Georgia TV and radio stations, along with interstate highway information signs, broadcast calls for help yesterday to find a man accused of killing four people, including his own infant, and abducting three other children, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The call for help started in North Georgia’s Gordon County, was broadcast through the state’s “Levi’s Call” system, and then as a national “Amber Alert.” Levi’s Call started two years ago in Georgia in memory of 11-year-old Levi Frady, who was abducted and killed in 1997 and was found by hunters. He had been shot three times. The day he was found, his abandoned bicycle was discovered in a ditch about a mile from his home. The case is unsolved.
The system founded in his name makes it possible for police to notify the public within minutes of an abduction. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation provides the information for broadcasts. It has issued 10 Levi’s Call alerts; most have helped bring about the arrest of suspects, said Vicki Metz of the investigation bureau. Two of the 10 cases turned out to be runaways, she added.
The nationwide Amber Alert system began eight years ago in memory of Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and murdered in 1996 in Arlington, Texas. All but four states have adopted an Amber Alert program, which stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.” The U.S. Department of Justice says that since Amber Alerts began, at least 100 children have been safely returned. The number of children abducted by strangers has dropped in recent years, from 134 in 1999 to 106 in 2000 and to 93 in 2001, says the FBI.
Amber Alert and Levi’s Call rely on the Emergency Alert System used to broadcast severe weather warnings. The system is not designed for runaways or children taken by noncustodial parents when a child is not in apparent danger.
Overusing Amber Alert can backfire, said criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University. “We’d have so many alerts that people will begin to ignore them because of overuse. There will be the face-in-the milk-carton effect,” he said. “We have to be very careful.”