A good plan could be better

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2003

The disappearance Monday of a young boy from his Kinston home can be considered a trial run by state and federal authorities of the AMBER alert system. Although the state has responded to other AMBER alerts, this was the first we know of that originated in Alabama, and the actions - and reactions - of law enforcement officials and the media can be studied to see how the system can be improved.

No matter how well anything is organized, there is always room for improvement.

An 11-year-old boy leaves his home on what seems like

a simple run to the store - and has not been seen for 12 hours when the police are notified. About 15 hours pass before the AMBER alert is officially issued. Why so long? Statistics have proven that the longer the child is missing, the fewer his chances of survival. Radios stations in Opp and Kinston carried the alert first thing Tuesday morning. Radio stations in Andalusia did not hear about it until later. The irony of the situation is, the child was in Andalusia all along.

This is not to condemn anyone involved with any aspect on this case. We were amazed at the speed with which the FBI, ABI and other law enforcement officials arrived in Kinston and began their search for the child. We are very appreciative of the law enforcement liaisons with whom we had the pleasure to deal with - from the local police chief to the FBI special agent - all were incredibly helpful, hopeful and

as informative as circumstances would allow.

We are all thankful he was returned and is safe and well. We are thankful that this trial run did not have any more serious repercussions for the boy. Let us recognize the many things that went right in this case, and learn from the few that did not quite live up to expectations.We are hopeful that all of the agencies involved - including and especially the media - learn how to make a good program even better.