WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- It's an excruciating sound coming from your cell phone, waking you up from a dead sleep -- an Amber Alert. It means a child in your area is missing, and police believe he or she is in danger.
But not all missing children meet the criteria for an Amber Alert. Last week, Winston-Salem police issued a Silver Alert for 13-year-old Kahzyrie Cherry. The alert said she was a minor, had physical and mental health problems and was missing.
Before police located Cherry unharmed at a bus station later that night, WFMY News 2 viewers asked why police issued a Silver Alert for her instead of an Amber Alert. One viewer said she thought a Silver Alert was for "elderly people" and Amber Alert for "younger people."
2 Wants To Know did some digging and learned there are key differences for issuing Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts.
- Unique to North Carolina (Dept. of Public Safety designed it to locate missing people who are in danger)
- Does not sound an alarm on cell phones
- No age restriction
- Missing person usually has a "cognitive impairment" (dementia or Alzheimer's) or a disability that could "subject the person to physical harm."
In Cherry's case, she met the Silver Alert criteria, because police believed she had physical and mental health problems that subjected her to harm. But, was that criteria enough to warrant an Amber Alert?
- Started in Texas in 1996 (stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response; tribute to missing nine-year-old Amber Hagerman)
- North Carolina started using it in 2003
- Each state has its own criteria
- In NC, the missing person has to be a child, 17 or younger
- In NC, police must believe the child was abducted, not a runaway
- In NC, police need 'sufficient' descriptive data on the child, abductor and/or abductor's vehicle
In Cherry's case, police never said they believed she had been abducted, so there were no abductor or vehicle descriptions. Therefore, there was no Amber Alert.
But, the Silver Alert got more than 500 shares from the WFMY News 2 Facebook page, alone, and police brought Cherry home safe and sound.