The disappearance and death of Bedford teen Kaytlynn Cargill prompted many to question why police did not issue an Amber Alert when she went missing Monday evening.
The alert system — which is named after Arlington 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and killed in 1996 — is used to find children who are believed to have been abducted.
Bedford police have said they didn’t issue an Amber Alert because they didn’t believe an abduction happened, nor did they believe Cargill was in danger. Instead, police posted about her disappearance on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon, saying “we do not have any reason to suspect foul play” was involved.
Police Chief Jeff Gibson defended the decision at a news conference Friday, reiterating that there was no indication Cargill had been abducted.
“There is nothing we could have done differently,” Gibson said.
Still, the incident left many on social media wondering about the criteria recommended to issue an Amber Alert.
Chrystal Riddle is a Bedford parent who attended Friday’s news conference trying to find out more information about Kaytlynn’s case.
“I’m confident [police] followed their protocol and procedures,” Riddle said. “My concern is going forward ... there has to be somewhere between an Amber Alert and us not being concerned about a child being in danger.”
Kaytlynn had taken her dog, a Miniature Pinscher, on a walk about 6:20 p.m. Monday and was last seen at the Oak Creek West Apartments, where she lived with her family. She tied up her dog in the dog park and a friend said Kaytlynn asked others to watch the dog for a minute.
She never returned and her parents reported her missing at 8:15 p.m., police said.
The teen’s body was discovered Wednesday afternoon at the landfill in north Arlington, about 3 miles from the apartment where she lived.
Gibson said Friday that it’s not known if she was killed by another person and said there is no evidence to suggest there is “a further risk to our community.”
The Tarrant County medical examiner has not determined her cause or manner of death and has ordered toxicology reports, which could take up to 90 days to complete, a spokesperson said.
When should an Amber Alert be used?
The Texas Department of Public Safety lists several guidelines for sending an Amber Alert to the state’s network, beginning with the child’s age:
- If the child is 17 years old or younger and law enforcement determined their disappearance was unwilling and that their whereabouts is unknown.
- If the child is 13 years old or younger and was taken without permission from a parent or guardian by someone unrelated and three years older or another parent or guardian who attempted or committed murder at the time of the abduction.
Beyond age, three more criteria are listed:
- The child is in immediate danger or at risk of sexual assault, death or serious bodily injury.
- An investigation verified a child’s abduction and eliminated other explanations for the child’s disappearance.
- Sufficient information is available to release to the public to help find the child, the suspect or the vehicle used in the abduction. Most Amber Alerts include the suspect’s name and the suspect’s vehicle.
Diana R. Simone, a Hood County woman credited with the idea for the alert, wanted to create a notification system that focused specifically on known abductions and the suspects and vehicles involved.
How can law enforcement issue an Amber Alert in Texas?
The agency investigating the missing child case is required to fill out an Amber Alert request form and submit the form to the State Operations Center at the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
The form asks for “Yes” or “No” answers to each of the alert criteria, along with suspect and vehicle information. All four criteria must be met for the request to be accepted.
How long does an Amber Alert last?
The alerts are valid for 24 hours. Agencies must request extensions through the State Operations Center.
Why aren’t Amber Alerts used more often?
AmberAlert.gov explains that the alerts “are used in the most serious cases that meet the AMBER criteria.”
“Overuse of AMBER Alert could result in the public becoming desensitized to Alerts when they are issued,” the website says.
How successful are Amber Alerts?
Amber Alerts have resulted in the rescue of 868 children since the program was formed after Hagerman’s death, according to AmberAlert.gov.