When are AMBER Alerts issued ?

WINNIPEG — It was the question on many minds when 12-year-old Tristan McMahon was allegedly abducted by his biological mother Charlotte McMahon on Saturday morning . Why was no AMBER alert issued?

The young boy had been on an overnight supervised visit with his mother Friday night. When his father and stepmom contacted the boy’s grandmother in the morning, they were told both of them were gone.

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“She had taken her car, keys, purse, all her money, packed the cats up and some belongings and all his photos and they were gone,” said stepmom Wendy Tronrud.

READ MORE: Police search for missing Tristan McMahon

Police were immediately contacted and within hours pictures of the two and the car they were believed to be travelling in were blasted out to media and police organizations across the country. But no AMBER alert was issued.

According to the WPS the scenario came very close, but fell short of meeting all requirements needed.

If a person under the age of 18 years is abducted, then the Winnipeg Police service will consider issuing an Amber Alert. However, there are four specific requirements that need to be met before it will be activated.

The abduction has been confirmed (by witnesses or supporting evidence).It is believed that the victim is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death.There is sufficient descriptive information about the victim, the suspect or the suspect’s vehicle to ensure the public can identify these elements.The Alert can be issued in a time frame that would provide a reasonable expectation that the victim could be returned or the suspect could be apprehended prior to fleeing.

Police told Global News they had no evidence to believe the 12-year-old was in life-threatening danger.

“We were concerned for the well being and safety but that one criteria was not met,” said Constable Jason Michalyshen. “We have to have some very specific evidence to support that. Are we talking about a weapon, have threats been made, is there anything historically that we need to delve in to? 3 out of the 4 criteria were met and that one wasn’t.”

Since the AMBER Alert program started within Canada in 2002, the WPS has never issued an AMBER alert.

The RCMP also specifies on its website that an AMBER alert is not used for cases involving runaways or parental abductions, except in life-threatening situations. Again, this specific case did not meet that requirement because it was not believed McMahon was in imminent danger

Background

The AMBER Alert program originated in Arlington, Texas, in 1996 after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted while playing in her yard. She was found murdered a few days later following an extensive search.

Texas organized a system that encouraged law enforcement agencies to alert the media following a confirmed child abduction.

The name of the program is an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response System.

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