SENATE, No. 2537

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

214th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED DECEMBER 9, 2010

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  LINDA R. GREENSTEIN

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Codifies AG recommendations for issuing Amber Alert when family member abducts child.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning certain alerts in cases involving abductions of children by family members and amending P.L.2002, c.129.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    Section 3 of P.L.2002, c.129 (C.52:17B-194.3) is amended to read as follows:

     3.    a. The Attorney General shall establish "Amber's Plan," a program authorizing the broadcast media, upon notice from the State Police, to transmit an emergency alert to inform the public of a child abduction.  The program shall be a voluntary, cooperative effort between State and local law enforcement agencies and the broadcast media.

     b.    The Attorney General shall notify the broadcast media serving the State of New Jersey of the establishment of "Amber's Plan" and invite their voluntary participation.

     c.     The following criteria shall be met before the State Police activate the Amber Alert:

     (1)   The child is believed to be abducted;

     (2)   The child is 17 years of age or younger;

     (3)   The child may be in danger of death or serious bodily injury; and

     (4)   There is [sufficient information available to indicate] reason to believe that an "Amber Alert" would assist in locating the child considering all relevant circumstances, including whether there is enough descriptive information available and the amount of time that has elapsed since the child was last seen and was reported missing.

     If the child is abducted by a stranger, that child shall be deemed to be at great risk of physical harm.

If the child is abducted by a family member, law enforcement officials shall consider the following criteria to determine whether the State Police should activate an Amber Alert:

     (1)   If any express or implied threats of harm to the child were made by the abductor at any time before the abduction, or during the course of the abduction;

     (2)   If there was any past history of violence by the abductor directed against the child, or abuse or neglect of the child, or any other child;

     (3)   If violence or threat of violence was used in committing the abduction, and whether force was used or directed against the child or put the child at immediate risk of harm, including force directed against another;

     (4)   If there is a family history of domestic violence or child abuse, or a history of custody disputes or past abductions;

     (5)   If the abductor has a history of violence or weapons offenses;

     (6)   If the abductor is believed to be armed;

     (7)   If the abductor is believed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs;

     (8)   If the abductor has a history of alcohol or other substance abuse;

     (9)   If the abductor has a history of mental illness;

     (10) If the abductor acted irrationally;

     (11) If the child or the abductor has a pre-existing medical or health condition, which, if unmonitored or untreated, could impact on the welfare of the child; and

     (12) If any other facts or circumstances exist that suggest that the abductor might intentionally or unintentionally harm the child, or expose the child to a dangerous situation.

     All appropriate law enforcement personnel, including 9-1-1 operators, shall be trained in the proper implementation of these criteria.

     d.    The participating media shall voluntarily agree, upon notice from the State Police, to transmit emergency alerts to inform the public of a child abduction that has occurred within their broadcast service regions.  The notice shall be provided through the State Police operational dispatch unit.

     The alerts shall be read after a distinctive sound tone and the statement: "This is an Amber Abducted Child Alert."  The alerts shall be broadcast as often as possible, pursuant to the guidelines established by the New Jersey Broadcasters' Association, for the first three hours.  After the initial three hours, the alert shall be rebroadcast at such intervals as the investigating authority, the State Police and the participating media deem appropriate.

     The alerts shall include a description of the child, such details of the abduction and abductor as may be known, and such other information as the State Police may deem pertinent and appropriate. The State Police shall in a timely manner update the broadcast media with new information when appropriate concerning the abduction.

     The alerts also shall provide information concerning how those members of the public who have information relating to the abduction may contact the State Police or other appropriate law enforcement agency.

     Concurrent with the notice provided to the broadcast media, the State Police operational dispatch unit shall also notify the Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Highway Authority, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority of the "Amber Alert."  Through the use of their variable message signs, the department and the affected authorities shall inform the motoring public that an "Amber Alert" is in progress and provide information relating to the abduction and how motorists may report any information they have to the State Police or other appropriate law enforcement agency.

     e.     The alerts shall terminate upon notice from the State Police.

     f.     The Attorney General, with the assistance of the participating broadcast media, shall develop and undertake a public education campaign to inform the public about "Amber's Plan" and the emergency alert program established under this act.

     g.     The Attorney General may adopt guidelines to effectuate the purposes of this act.

(cf:  P.L.2002, c.129, s.3)

 

     2.    This act shall take effect on the first day of the second month following enactment.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would codify the Attorney General’s recommendations concerning when an Amber Alert should be issued in cases involving the abduction of a child by a family member.

     Specifically, the bill sets forth criteria that law enforcement officials must consider in determining whether the State Police should activate an Amber Alert.  Law enforcement officials must consider whether:

     (1)   any express or implied threats of harm to the child were made by the abductor at any time before the abduction, or during the course of the abduction (for example, “if I can’t have custody, then no one will”);

     (2)   there was any past history of violence by the abductor directed against the child, or abuse or neglect of the child, or any other child;

     (3)   violence or threat of violence was used in committing the abduction, and whether force was used or directed against the child (for example, the child resisted or tried to escape) or put the child at immediate risk of harm, even if the force was directed against another (for example, the use or threatened use of a firearm or other weapon; assault by auto, motor vehicle eluding, or reckless driving);

     (4)   there is a family history of domestic violence or child abuse, or a history of custody disputes or past abductions;

     (5)   the abductor has a past history of violence or weapons offenses;

     (6)   the abductor is believed to be armed;

     (7)   the abductor is believed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs;

     (8)   the abductor has a history of alcohol or other substance abuse;

     (9)   the abductor has a history of mental illness;

     (10) the abductor was acting irrationally (for example, uncontrolled rage, desperation, or panic);

     (11) the child or the abductor has a pre-existing medical or  health condition, which, if unmonitored or untreated, could negatively impact on the welfare of the child; and

     (12) any other facts or circumstances exist that suggest that the abductor might intentionally or unintentionally harm the child, or expose the child to a dangerous situation.

     The bill also specifies that all appropriate law enforcement personnel, including 9-1-1 operators, are to be trained to implement these criteria.

     This bill is in response to the tragic case of Zara Malani-Lin Abdur-Raheem, a three-month old infant whose father abducted her from her grandmother and is accused of throwing her off the Driscoll Bridge. Under the Attorney General guidelines in effect at the time of Zara’s abduction, it was not clear what criteria should be followed in cases of abduction by family members.  This bill essentially codifies changes to these guidelines recommended by the Attorney General in response to this case.