I 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.
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?