Emergency alert program aids law enforcement

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- An unfamiliar sound echoed from many smart phones this past weekend, after an Amber Alert sounded bringing attention to a missing three-year old boy on the Front Range.

While the notification may not have been something you signed up to receive, it is something that you may want to pay extra attention to.

After Colorado child Luke Turner was allegedly kidnapped by his father Saturday, a statewide Amber Alert was issued, and you probably received a phone alert loud and clear notifying you about the kidnapping.

It's every parent's worst fear: their child goes missing or is abducted, prompting an Amber Alert. Now thanks to some new technology, there are some extra eyes and ears that will be on the lookout.

"If we can get information out to as many members of the community, that means we have even more eyes out there to hopefully locate that abducted child as fast as possible," Colorado Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Susan Medina said of the Wireless Emergency Alert.

Local phone providers say the alerts don't cost a dime, and the alert is automatically coordinated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA.

"It's part of the CDMA towers, from what I understand is the government uses those towers for all their phones, so it makes it easier to send out those alerts to anyone who carries those phones," local Verizon Wireless employee David Nelson said.

With over 800,000 children reported missing across the country last year, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation says the new system will help speed up the alert process.

"We have tens of thousands cell phone subscribers now receiving these alerts to their cellphones and so it just provides another resource for us to relay information about these critical amber alerts," Medina said.

If a local Amber Alert does occur, law enforcement will also reach out to help spread awareness.

"We would use our emergency notification system in addition to the statewide system, to alert some of our local folks about what is going on. That will send out notifications to landline phones as well as anyone who signed up for the cell phone and email system," Grand Junction Police Department spokesperson Kate Porras said.

CBI officials also encourage parents to spend 25 minutes with their children to talk about risks they face from abductors. That includes teaching your children to tell you about online predators if they get approached through social media or a website.

Since 1996, the Amber Alert program can be credited for the successful recovery of nearly 650 children.

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