NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – When people in Tennessee go missing or dangerous people go on the run from law enforcement, there are a number of different alerts that may be released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). As the state’s lead law enforcement agency, the TBI has the power to activate each of these alerts to help raise public awareness and locate those individuals.
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In each case, certain criteria must be met in order for the alert to be activated by state officials.
The most well-known alert for missing children is an AMBER Alert. The America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert system was created in 1996 after the disappearance and murder of Amber Hagerman in Dallas Arlington, Texas.
The TBI reserves only the most serious of missing children cases for AMBER Alerts; law enforcement should believe that a child is in imminent danger. By utilizing AMBER Alerts, the TBI is able to partner with multiple other agencies, including TEMA, the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, the National Weather Service, TDOT, and others, in order to amplify vital information about the missing child and, if available, the suspect, vehicle and direction of travel.
In order for an AMBER Alert to be activated, the following criteria must be met:
- The person is 17 years old or younger
- The child is in imminent danger of bodily injury or death
- There is a description of the child, the abductor or vehicle
Additionally, if another state has requested the AMBER Alert activation, there must be a central line of communication to the state, and information on that line must be given to the TBI at the time of the request.
Issuing AMBER Alerts require multiple layers of notification across the state, but the TBI places priority on notifying the media, the National Weather Service, TDOT and the TBI social media audience in an effort to share information with the public at large.
The TBI also works with the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to activate the cellular telephone network, billboards and other secondary alert notifications.
Silver Alerts are issued for seniors who may have wandered due to dementia, physical impairment or disability. Tennessee codified Silver Alerts into law in 2021, with the law taking effect July 1, 2021.
In order to activate a Silver Alert, the missing person must be either:
- At least 60 years old whose whereabouts are unknown and who is believed to be in danger because of age, health, mental health conditions or physical disability in addition to environmental or weather conditions and may not be able to return without assistance
- A person of any age who suffers from dementia, whose whereabouts are unknown, who is believed to be in danger because of dementia or a physical impairment
- A person at least 18 years old who is missing and who has an intellectual, developmental, or physical disability; and who is believed to be in danger because of the disability, or is believed to be unable to return to safety without assistance
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Silver Alerts require local law enforcement agencies to begin their own investigations immediately and to notify the TBI of the situation within four hours. The TBI is then required to notify media outlets within 12 hours.
Blue Alerts are issued by the TBI to provide “rapid dissemination of information to the public to assist in apprehending violent criminals who kill or seriously injure law enforcement officers in the line of duty or to aid in locating a missing officer where foul play is involved.”
They were first issued in Tennessee in July 2011. They utilize the same statewide infrastructure as AMBER Alerts.
All the following criteria must be met in order for the TBI to issue a Blue Alert:
- A sworn law enforcement officer is killed, sustains life-threatening injuries or the officer is missing in the line of duty under circumstances warranting concern for the law enforcement officer’s safety
- The suspect(s) pose(s) an imminent threat to public safety and law enforcement personnel
- A description of the offender or vehicle is available for statewide broadcast to the public and law enforcement 911 centers
- Prior to activation, if the suspect(s) is/are identified, the requesting agency will immediately: Place the suspect in the temporary felon file in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Obtain felony warrants as soon as possible or within 24 hours and enter the offender into NCIC
- The head of any Tennessee law enforcement agency, Colonel of the Highway Patrol, Chief, Sheriff, or their designee of the investigating law enforcement agency of jurisdiction requests the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to activate the Blue Alert system.
Endangered Child Alert
If there is concern for a child’s safety but not concern of their imminent bodily harm or death, the TBI issues an Endangered Child Alert.
In issuing an Endangered Child Alert, the TBI notifies local media–in specific regions of the state–about the missing child, along with any additional available information. The TBI also uses social media to further share the relevant information.
Endangered Young Adult Alert
This alert is for young adults aged 18-20 and is an expansion of the state’s Endangered Child Alert system. The alert was created in 2020 and named the “Holly Bobo Act” in honor of the young woman abducted from her Decatur County home in 2011.
Because she was 20 years old, Bobo was not the subject of an AMBER Alert. Her remains were found more than three years after she went missing.