"Amber Alert" Plans in East Texas

"The first 24-72 hours is the most critical," says Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith.

In the most recent abduction in California, the "Amber Alert" system showed how it can save lives. Throughout the LA area... road signs... radio broadcasts... and television put the word out in minutes.

They found the girls just in time.

"The more eyes and ears we have the better off we are," says Smith.

There is no area wide "Amber" plan in East Texas, but law enforcement say the word gets out at once. Case in point: May 2000. A child is missing from a school group at Tyler's Caldwell Zoo. Officer Chris Moore sends out an "Amber Alert" fax to the media... a follow up phone call has the information on the air in minutes.

"[The] grandmother actually saw it when she got home and turned on her television news. And called the school," says Moore.

"Every law enforcement agency is notified in the matter of probably five minutes." Smith says communication is excellent between agencies... and it's getting better. New computer systems are going online... one's from the Child Alert Foundation.

"[It's] a totally computerized system that not only goes out to media, but law enforcement and media within 100 miles of Tyler."

Tyler, Athens, Marshall have signed on... Gregg County has had the system since early this year. Sheriff Maxey Cerliano says: "We can contact all those sources and get the necessary information to them immediately."

Kidnappings are very rare in East Texas. But, officers say they are ready to respond... they just hope their plans never have to be used.