FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth police are continuing to review the way they handle Amber Alerts after issues last weekend during Salem Sabatka’s kidnapping case.
The issue that arose and caught the attention of Facebook and Twitter users is that many claimed they never received an Amber Alert on their cellphones even though police said they issued one for the kidnapped 8-year-old.
Authorities said Sabatka was kidnapped by 51-year-old Michael Webb early Saturday evening while she was walking with her mother on 6th Avenue. She was later found early Sunday morning at a hotel in Forest Hill, and the suspect was taken into custody. He has been charged with aggravated kidnapping.
The news of the kidnapping spread quickly through social media channels such Facebook and Twitter, and although she was ultimately found safely, many were left wondering why they didn’t receive the Amber Alert that was supposedly issued.
On Tuesday, police said they sent the notification to the Amber Alert Center in Austin and that the Texas Department of Public Safety is responsible for distributing the information to the correct agencies. The main issue with the information on the kidnapping, according to police, was that authorities were missing a license plate number for the suspect’s vehicle.
While alerting the public, police were only able to give a vague description of the vehicle, which had paper tags.
On Sunday, Joel Fitzgerald, who was police chief at the time, addressed the Amber Alert issue: “In this instance, we had a vehicle description. A semi-vague vehicle description. But not a plate. So we were able to leverage what we could out of the Amber Alert system and our social media, and that’s what really helped us… social media saved the day for us.”
Police also said an emergency alert wasn’t issued to local radio stations because there were issues with the department’s fax machine at the scene that evening. To fix this, police will use email to notify the communications division, who will then fax the information for radio broadcast.