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Two new missing alerts will go into effect in to California next year: What to know

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FOX 5 San Diego
Danielle Dawson
December 29, 2023

Two new emergency notification systems will be coming to California in the new year, including a first-of-its-kind program entirely dedicated to help find missing Black youth and women.

Similar to AMBER and Silver alerts, California Highway Patrol will have the authority to notify the public about at-risk missing individuals that are either not covered by the existing notifications or those that do not often get the same level of attention when reported as a missing person.

The new alerts, called the “Ebony Alert” and the “Endangered Missing Advisory,” will be going into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

When either are activated, CHP will be able to disseminate information about them victim to aid in their recovery, including through the use of electronic signs along highways and alerts sent to phones. Broadcast outlets and social media sites will also be encouraged to circulate their information.

Here is what you need to know about the new alert systems:

Ebony Alert

California is the first state in the country to implement a new “Ebony Alert,” which is a emergency notification dedicated to missing Black youth and women between the ages of 12 and 25.

The new system was created by Senate Bill 673 and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this year.

According to the bill, CHP will be able to activate the alert when they determine that it would be helpful for the individual’s recovery. Factors they might consider include whether the individual has a mental or physical disability, if human trafficking is suspected in their disappearance, or if there are are other “unexplained or suspicious circumstances.”

The measure was introduced by State Senator Steven Bradford as a way opening up resources to more effectively assist in recovering Black youth and women, who are at an increased risk of being harmed or trafficked but often do not get the same level of public attention.

California has comparable alert system dedicated to missing indigenous persons known as the “Feather Alert.”

According to data from the National Crime Center, more than 140,000 Black children ages 17 and under went missing for some duration of time in 2022, including about 77,000 girls. That accounts for roughly 39% of all missing children in the U.S. last year, despite Black or African American individuals making up only 12.4% of the county’s population at the same point in time.

When Black children disappear, research conducted by the Black and Missing Foundation has found that they are often initially classified as “runaways” by law enforcement — disqualifying them from an AMBER Alert — unlike their white counterparts who are reported as “missing.”

Similarly to children, young Black women account for a large portion of missing persons, particularly those that are victims of sex trafficking. One report on a two-year study conducted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation found that roughly 40% of all sex trafficking victims were identified Black women.

“Our Black children and young women are disproportionately represented on the lists of missing persons. This is heartbreaking and painful for so many families and a public crisis for our entire state. The Ebony Alert can change this,” Bradford said in a statement after SB 673 was signed.

“The Ebony Alert will ensure that vital resources and attention are given so we can bring home missing Black children and women in the same way we search for any missing child and missing person,” he continued.

Endangered Missing Advisory

The new “Endangered Missing Advisory” is an emergency notification system aimed at assisting in the recovery of missing individuals that do not meet the age restrictions associated with the AMBER and Silver alerts.

CHP has had an EMA system for several years, however, its use was not mandated by law as it is with other alerts.

Assembly Bill 946, which was authored by Assemblymember Stephanie Nguyen, sought to formalize the system and was signed into law by Newsom earlier this year.

When it goes into effect on Jan. 1, law enforcement agencies will be able to request CHP active the advisory for public distribution when a missing person is reported who meets specific criteria like whether the individual has a mental or physical disability, if abduction is suspected, or if their physical safety is otherwise believed to be at risk.

Before activating this advisory, CHP says they will consider the following questions:

  • Do the circumstances fail to meet other alert criteria?
  • Is the person missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances?
  • Is the person believed to be in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, or the environment or weather conditions; is he or she in the company of a potentially dangerous person; or, is there any other factor that may put the person in peril?
  • Is there information that, if disseminated to the public, could assist the public in the safe recovery of the missing person?

Photo credit: FOX 5 San Diego

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