February 9, 2016
State official discusses AMBER Alert sytem.
Virginia authorities issued an AMBER Alert Feb. 6 after three-year-old Haven Moses was abducted from a Scottsville home in violation of a protective order.
Moses was taken from a caretaker’s house in Scottsville Feb. 6 by her biological father, James A. Moses III, without the permission of her mother, Nichole Melia.
The abduction was reported to the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office Feb. 6, and an investigation began with assistance from the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office, the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Investigators were able to speak with members of James Moses’s family and were ultimately able to arrange for a family member to take Haven to the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office,” according to a Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office press release.
Haven Moses was returned safely to the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office Feb. 7.
The Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office has obtained a warrant for the arrest of James Moses for violation of a protective order and parental abduction, according to the press release.
During the investigation, the Virginia State Police issued an AMBER Alert for Haven Moses on Saturday night and terminated the alert on Feb. 7 after the child’s return.
VSP First Sergeant Scott Downs said the state police puts out an AMBER Alert for an abduction case after receiving a request from the agency conducting the investigation and ensuring the alert complies with state law.
Downs said if the alert is in compliance, VSP obtains a waiver from the missing child’s parent or guardian giving the agency permission to post information about the child. The child’s information is then entered into the Emergency Network.
“We’re also sending administrative messages to state police letting them know an AMBER Alert is being activated and talking with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, letting them know,” Downs said. “They have programs that get activated on their side.”
One National Center for Missing and Exploited Children program activates cell phone AMBER Alerts. Many University students saw an alert about Haven Moses’ abduction appear on their phones.
“The FCC only allows 90 characters and restricts content to vehicle information,” Downs said of the cell phone alerts. “We have to keep it short because if we make it too long, it’s not safe to read while driving.”
Alerts are also posted on television and radio. Interstate signs operated by the Virginia Department of Transportation are changed to AMBER Alert information, and other institutions — like hospitals — are alerted as well, Downs said.
“Facebook gets activated, Twitter feeds get activated,” he said. “The closest AMBER Alert automatically appears on Google when you open it.”
This process usually takes around 45 minutes, though it can depend on how long an agency takes to get permission for the release of a child’s information, Downs said.
Downs said with more people on alert for a missing child, there are greater chances of safely and quickly returning the child.
VSP must also make sure officers are available to answer phones once the alert is posted, because the police can receive up to a thousand calls on an AMBER alert. Downs said the number of calls depends on factors like time of day and how much information the alert includes.
Since the advent of the AMBER alert system in Virginia in 2002, the state averages two alerts per year, Downs said.
Officials are not releasing any additional information about the Haven Moses case at this time.
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