AMBER Alert on My Phone Now

AMBER AlertI just got an AMBER Alert — on my phone. I’m a late adopter, so maybe all of you are very used to these things. But I was worried. With the high pitched screeching, it reminded me of those tests we got on television to prepare us all for nuclear war. But now, it was just a missing child in Solano County — roughly an hour away from me by car.

Generally, an AMBER Alert is just about some child custody case. I don’t mean to suggest that they aren’t serious. I’m constantly amazed at the way that couples use their children to get at each other. It’s disgusting. It’s cruel. And most of all, it’s childish. Leave the biologically children out of it!

This particular AMBER Alert is about an actual kidnapping, it seems. Allegedly, Pearl Pinson (15) was dragged by Fernando Castro (19) into his gold 1997 Saturn Wednesday morning. But this is hardly the kind of kidnapping that one normally thinks about. It is almost certainly the case that Pinson and Castro knew each other. I assume that they used to be lovers and have broken up. Castro is acting the way a lot of young men do who are scorned.

I don’t want to live in a society in which everyone is deputized.

This doesn’t make the act harmless. Castro may have a gun. This is a perfect set-up for a murder-suicide. So I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of this in the least. I hope that everything works out with no further harm coming to anyone.

But an AMBER Alert just last week sounds exactly the same: a 15-year-old girl was dragged into the car of her 22-year-old boyfriend. The girl was found three hours later, having been dropped off at the assailant’s parent’s house. As far as I can tell, the police still haven’t found the boyfriend.

But I have real problems with the AMBER Alert. The most obvious one is why we make a big deal out of this particular crime committed against this particular population (people under the age of 17). I suppose the idea is that the crime is still in progress. But the crime is still in progress when someone kills everyone in a 7-11 and rushes away with a gun. And why do we care only up to the age of 16?

The other issue I have is that I don’t want to live in a society in which everyone is deputized. I hated it when shows like America’s Most Wanted showed up. And that was a very telling example, because it started off going after murderers. But before long there were drug dealers on it. There’s a delicate balance that young children are taught: there are things we need to worry about and there are things that we shouldn’t worry about. We don’t want to live in an authoritarian nightmare.

So I’m concerned about Pearl Pinson and Fernando Castro. And if I could do something to help, I would. (Creating a standoff with the police is probably the most dangerous thing that could happen.) But getting an alert on my phone about something that happened yesterday, an hour away from me, when I’m not in a car? It sounds like a waste of resources to me. And I wonder what the police have been doing in the day and a half since Pinson was kidnapped.

Is this another case where the police are not held accountable for any wrong they do and are always proclaimed heroes — even while they can’t find two known people in a known car? Is the AMBER Alert just a subtle reminder that our policing departments are filled with incompetents?

14 thoughts on “AMBER Alert on My Phone Now

  1. I don’t know if I agree-while Congress and other legislative bodies tend to overreact at all times to nationally hyped media stories-the first 24-48 hours after a kid has been kidnapped including if they were in their teens is pretty critical.

    The Amber Alerts are updated tech for the old 500-1000 person search parties to look over some ground. And my state hasn’t yet adopted the phone system (I think) for Silver alerts which are for the elderly. But they otherwise use the same tools for the elderly as they use for the young.

    So I think it is helpful to have a few extra eyes out there as the police cannot be everywhere and people don’t have the time to wander around looking for kids like they once did.

    • I’m pretty sure they started in Europe, so maybe that’s why they don’t do it in Arizona!

      I’m torn over the subject. On a practical standpoint, it might be fine. I’m more concerned about turning everyone into a police force. And I do worry about a slippery slope, “7-year old bully seen fleeing Monroe Grammar School at 2:30 pm today.” But this case is an interesting one. When I wrote about it, there was nothing about it. Now it is big news in California. The kidnapper is dead and still no one knows where the victim is. I certainly hope she shows up alive, but it doesn’t look good.

        • What is DV? I should clarify. It doesn’t look like they were a couple. But it is possible that he was obsessed with her and she wouldn’t accept him. They definitely knew each other. It is very sad. I don’t know why we can’t manage to use that drug bomb the Russians used in that theater several years ago. If the boy were still alive, we might know something. Hopefully he just dumped her off somewhere remote. At least then she would have a chance.

          I must admit, I’ve been drawn into this. I now do care about this teen who I don’t otherwise know. It has to be awful for her family.

          • Domestic violence. It includes at times when someone is stalking another person they didn’t have a former or current romantic relationship with.

            As for why they don’t use the drug bomb: there may be some reason. When it comes to knocking someone out, you know better than any of us here how hard that is without knowing more information that they probably didn’t have.

            • See, I thought someone might bring that up. If you put a bunch of people to sleep, you can’t leave them collapsed on each other so they can suffocate. But that wouldn’t happen in this case. Of course, if its outdoors, I doubt it would work.

  2. Here’s some stats from the DOJ: of 160 genuine abduction alerts (26 were based on hoaxes or it turned out the child was only briefly lost) issued in 2014, 41 were by non-family members. And 1/3 of all alerts issued about non-family members were people who knew the child (boyfriends, family friends, etc.)

    So, in 186 alerts issued, about 27 represented stranger abduction: 14.5%. Furthermore, of the 52 instances where the child was returned from a real kidnapper, only 8 involved tips called into authorities. (Another 8 involved the kidnapper hearing the alert issued and stopping because of it, which strikes me as the best possible outcome.)

    Basically the system seems to do very little in its stated purpose, the rescue of children kidnapped by crazed strangers. I suppose one could argue that no amount of money spent on rescuing even one victim is wasted, and I fully agree, yet one would think there are more efficient ways.

    Odd too is the geographic distribution. I looked at a few of these reports, and Texas for some reason always comes out way on top. Population size? Conservative family values? Guns?

    Or is there some degree to which law enforcement in certain areas is quicker to issue these alerts, either out of a genuine belief in their usefulness or a fear that they will take the blame if a child is harmed and they failed to issue the alert?

    In any case, I dislike anything that has the effect of making people feel more frightened. And when I looked at where this system originated, it all came from a national paranoia about sex offenders that wasn’t handled in the rational “ok, how should we reduce the danger” way but more the standard “everything is getting scarier and going to hell” way.

    There is something to be said for alerting friends and family members, especially, to the fact that an angry parent may be harming a child so that the appropriate authorities are contacted (instead of “this is between husband and wife, we can’t interfere.”) And it’s great that schools & day care centers won’t just let a divorced parent show up and take a kid with them anymore. How hospitals treating you for an injury are required to ask if someone has been abusing you. All that stuff”s very important.

    • With my post and your comment, we have the makings for one pretty good article! Thanks for getting those stats and history. That’s very interesting.

      I did know that some people turned themselves in just because they saw the alert. And that is a great outcome. I wonder about the alert in this particular case, however. Fernando Castro was found because of it (without Pearl Pinson), resulting in a very dangerous chase. He then broke into a mobile home (near where he crashed), tried to steal a car, and was killed. I don’t think that’s a good outcome. I certainly hope that Pinson is just hiding somewhere. It doesn’t make sense for an AMBER Alert to cause someone to abandon the victim; it’s the car that will get them into trouble. But the kid didn’t show himself to be very smart. So I fear the worst. I hope I’m wrong. There’s already too much loss of life.

      • The DOJ may basically serve Evil, but credit to them for making those stat sheets very thorough and easy to read. Some federal websites are dead link city. I would have liked more specific data about how the kidnappers were nabbed; it’s unclear what’s a tip called in by non-involved parties who heard the alert and what are cases where cops or relatives/friends ID’d the kidnapper/car.

        Another interesting bit is that the ethnicity profile of AMBER alerts seems to be really fairly balanced; it’s not just missing white kids like on the evening news. So that’s a good thing.

        • The government does a great job of providing data. And the government was much faster at getting on the web than most companies. I know: blah, blah, blah.

  3. I’m just not sure how practical these are. For me, personally, I know the probability of my finding the kidnapper by chance is incredibly slim, so I almost completely ignore AMBER alerts.

    • I have to admit, getting them on my phone is probably better, because there is no way I would remember a license plate. But overall, I think those signs should be used to keep the freeways as safe as possible. Most people have enough to do just to drive safely. They don’t need to be looking out for cars.

  4. I’m getting an amber alert right now but it seems to be from a car dealership or individual trying to sell a car (I’m hearing it again now!). There is no way to block or report it. I had this once before on a work phone. The only option on the alert is “confirm”. I did that on the work phone and it stopped but it seems to be some sort of scam and I wonder if confirming opens me to further problems.

    • I am getting an increasing number of phony calls, about two a day. Like you, I don’t respond to them. I believe the goal is just to test out phone numbers at random, and if someone responds, the caller sells their number as “real person” to a scam artist — possibly overseas. If they’re trying it with calls, they can certainly try it with text messages.

      While I doubt there’s much legally that can be done (these scam artists cover their tracks very well), you might report the issue to your phone manufacturer. These message tones are supposed to only be available for government agencies (Amber Alerts, flash flood warnings, etc.) It’s possible someone has figured out a back door into whatever phone model you own. The manufacturer could easily fix that with a software update.

      And if they get enough complaints about bugs, they usually do fix them.

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