Recent AMBER Alert shows how timing can play a critical role

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LACEY’S SPRING, Ala. – Wednesday’s AMBER Alert was issued several hours into an abduction and roughly an hour before Adam Wilson was captured after taking a 16-year-old from her family at gun and knifepoint. The 16-year-old was known to Wilson and was returned to her family safely.

After roughly 5-hours of running on foot through a densely wooded area, Wilson and the teen were forced out of some brush by tracking beagles behind Brindlee Mountain Baptist Church.

The AMBER Alert situation can be seen two ways.

On one hand, given the alert went out in the last hour of the manhunt, had Wilson broken a tight law enforcement perimeter, people in Lacey’s Spring and Morgan City had an hour to read the AMBER Alert. If Wilson had tried to make a break for it to the nearby highway, he would likely be spotted by someone locally.

On the other hand, had the alert triggered later, Wilson could have been on the road without people knowing of the abduction.

“That’s why we had the perimeter close to the major roadways. When the AMBER Alert did come out, it was for that exact reason. Should they get through this, and be near a major highway or get in some type of vehicle. Everybody is looking for them now,” said Mike Swafford, spokesperson for the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office.

AMBER Alerts are not just a button anyone in law enforcement can push. In this case, Morgan County gathered information and sent it to ALEA’s Fusion Center in Montgomery.

“They (local law enforcement) come to us to issue that alert where we have trained analysts that some have been doing this for 20 years. They are really good at knowing the criteria for what is an alert and what’s not an alert,” said Jay Moseley Director of Alabama’s Fusion Center at ALEA.

Fusion centers were created after 9/11 and Moseley said they issue under 4 AMBER Alerts a year.
The alerts themselves need maximum, confirmable information.

“If you’ve got a child missing but you don’t have the person who may have taken the child, it doesn’t do any good to just say be on the look out for…what? We need to know what they may be driving, what they may be wearing. A picture of them, a name. Things like that,” said Moseley.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said the process can labor intensive but the standard is worth it for families of missing loved ones. And because Wilson was on foot, deputies had a degree of confidence of where he could pop up. Which made the AMBER Alert a failsafe.

“In that case, we had a perimeter. We had aerial support. We had people in the area tracking them. But then we also had technology at work for us. There are things that we don’t really talk about that gave us reasonable confidence that ‘hey! they are in this area,'” said Swafford.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said this was the first time under Sheriff Ron Puckett that the office had to reach out to the Fusion Center to start the AMBER Alert process. The 9-1-1 call came in just after noon. Not long after that, the sheriff’s office sent information to Montgomery.

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