New program to keep East Texas children safe

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - It's a massive undertaking to make sure when the unthinkable happens, we're ready. Authorities from 14 counties descended on Tyler  Thursday to train on a new East Texas Amber Alert program.

It's a cooperative effort among local law enforcement agencies and the media throughout East Texas. When it comes to missing children, time is of the essence.

The statewide Amber Alert is still in place, but the new program was created to get vital information to the East Texas public as fast as possible, covering counties from Henderson to Panola and Harrison to Cherokee.

Not too long ago, 11-year-old Julissa Rodriguez went missing in Tyler. Law enforcement agencies all over the state were alerted, but no statewide Amber Alert was issued. Certain criteria must be met before DPS issues those alerts. The girl was eventually found in Mexico.

Coordinators of the program say with this new, hyper local system in place, East Texas would be more equipped to act quickly in situations like that.

"The Department of Justice says that of children who are abducted and murdered, 72 percent of them are killed within the first three hours," said Super East Texas Amber Alert System Coordinator Harry Goodan. "Every minute counts. The quicker we can get the alerts out there, the quicker we can get the kids back."

Eight counties make up the Deep East Texas Regional Amber Alert Program. The system was established in August 2008. It was put to work for the first time back in March when Nacogdoches 2-year-old Louis Gallegos and his 4-year-old sister, Laiza Gallegos were abducted by their father. Both children were found within hours of the alert. The program launched this morning. Coordinators say if a child had gone missing today, authorities would have been ready to act.