Few things are scarier than a self-righteous mob bent on saving lives and keeping people safe, facts be damned. In the middle of the night my cell phone went off. I looked at the screen. An AMBER alert had been issued. Another went off a few minutes later.
Little kids should not be in jeopardy. However, despite news items of individual successes or articles published by those who advocate for the system itself, a peer-review study suggests the alerts are not so effective.
Timothy Griffin is an associate professor of criminology at the University of Nevada-Reno, He led a 2015 study, published in 39 Journal of Crime and Justice No. 4 (2016). In a “sample of 448 child abduction cases in which [an AMBER] Alert was issued ...
We reached conclusions consistent with the scant available prior research on AMBER Alert: although over 25% of the Alerts facilitated the recovery of abducted child(ren) and are thus arguably ‘successful’ by that standard alone, ...
there was little evidence AMBER Alerts ‘save lives.’ In fact, AMBER Alert success cases are in almost every measurable way identical to AMBER Alert cases in which the child(ren) were returned unharmed but the Alert had no direct role in that outcome:...
they typically involve abduction by family members & other (apparently) non-life-threatening abductors, and the vast majority of recovery times are over 3 h....”
To put everyone on a fictional “high alert” makes some self-righteous people feel good and a few kids might be saved. But more kids might be saved, and some not even placed in danger, if we devote resources in other ways.
AMBER alerts going off on cell phones in the middle of the night are unlikely to reach people who can do anything at all. The self-righteous can react to this and sneer about inconvenience of disturbed sleep. I more concerned about kids’ safety and our limited resources.