LOCAL NEWS

Department Of Public Safety To Review, Improve AMBER Alert Process

Nov 21, 2019, 8:09 PM | Updated: 10:31 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Officials with Utah’s Department of Public Safety said they will review and look for ways to improve the state’s AMBER alert system after many found it difficult to access information from Wednesday night’s alert.

Many Utahns received alerts on their cellphones telling them to call 511 for more information. When they called, they couldn’t get through

“Our citizens out there, they were making the call. They were trying to get that information as they should,” said DPS spokeswoman Marissa Cote. “Unfortunately everyone did call all at once, which did cause some crowding in the system.”

Many people reported frustration at only getting a busy tone. The alert was issued by the Clinton Police Department after investigators said 3-week-old Aubrey Westfall was taken by her birth mother, 25-year-old Taylor Webb.

Police said Webb was staying with her mother, who has legal guardianship over the baby. Investigators believed she could be headed to her hometown of Modesto, California.

While AMBER alerts are initiated by the responding agency, Cote said the information is ultimately passed on to the state from police dispatch. As the system is set up now, Cote says if the alert does not contain a vehicle description, it is automatically sent to the 511 system.

“We’re looking into whether the 511 system is the appropriate system to use,” Cote said. “We’re not sure and we’re going to question. We’re going to dig deeper and see what we can do to be better.”

Currently, cellphone users can opt into an AMBER alert by text system. Cote said the DPS review will look into whether it may be possible to turn that into more of an opt-out setup.

“Fortunately, we don’t issue AMBER alerts every day, or even weekly. So when an amber alert is sent, we’re learning,” she said. “Ultimately at the other end of this is a child that needs help, so that’s the main focus of this and we want to make sure that the appropriate information is sent out.”

Cote added Utah’s AMBER alert system is currently rated as one of the best in the country. She said that 47 children have been returned home safely from 50 issued AMBER alerts.

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Department Of Public Safety To Review, Improve AMBER Alert Process