INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (WJW) – When a child is abducted, speed is essential.
“I think it’s a good reminder for all of us to remember that there’s a real person, there’s a real family that’s in a desperate and panicked situation searching for them and I think we as citizens can make a difference,” said Beth Holloway.
It’s been 17 years since her daughter Natalee went missing in Aruba during a high school graduation trip and never returned.
The case received national media attention.
“I think about in Natalee’s case the difference it would’ve made if we would’ve had a 911 number to call, if we would have had an AMBER Alert,” Beth said.
She shared her family’s story in Independence at the Northeast Ohio AMBER alert conference Thursday highlighting how powerful America’s emergency alert systems are.
“There’s a lot of missing persons out there, not just children, and so we want to basically elevate everyone’s thinking, educate them on it and hope that it never happens, but if it does happen, we’re ready to go,” said Newburgh Heights Police Chief John Majoy, who is also the chairman of the Northeast Ohio AMBER Alert Committee.
Kidnapping survivor Gina DeJesus’s organization ‘Cleveland Missing’ partners with the committee.
“We help families look for their missing loved one, but we’re really there for the family to support them. I know that my parents, they didn’t have a lot of resources so it’s just helping the family with resources,” DeJesus said.
Technology plays a huge role in getting the alert out as quickly as possible.
“The Northeast Ohio AMBER Alert through CECOMS has a function in place where we can reach about 1.2 million people in about 20 minutes,” Majoy said.
And they are utilizing new technologies.
“An agency can issue it from their cruiser or if they have it embedded there, they can issue it from their phone if they have to,” Majoy said.
Officials say there are zero to five AMBER Alerts on average in northeast Ohio a year. In the past eight years, there have been 30 and all have been successful.
“One of the things we did here in northern Ohio is form a permanent missing child unit. During the last two years alone, I think we’ve recovered over 100 kids across northeast Ohio,” said U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio Peter Elliott.
Chief Majoy wants the public to know just how important they are in missing person’s cases.
“The public is our main asset, they’re our biggest asset. They outnumber us and that’s abundantly clear,” Majoy said.