ASSEMBLY, No. 2709

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

216th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 24, 2014

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  PAMELA R. LAMPITT

District 6 (Burlington and Camden)

Assemblywoman  VALERIE VAINIERI HUTTLE

District 37 (Bergen)

Assemblyman  DANIEL R. BENSON

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

Assemblywoman  GABRIELA M. MOSQUERA

District 4 (Camden and Gloucester)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman Jimenez

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Establishes “Gold Alert System” for missing persons with developmental disabilities.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning missing persons with developmental disabilities and supplementing Title 52 of the Revised Statutes.

 

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

 

     1.    a.  The Attorney General shall establish a "Gold Alert System" which shall provide a Statewide system for the rapid dissemination of information regarding a missing person who is believed to have a developmental disability.  The program shall be a voluntary, cooperative effort between State and local law enforcement agencies and the media, including but not limited to print, radio, and television media outlets.

     b.    The Attorney General shall notify the media serving the State of New Jersey of the establishment of the Gold Alert System, and invite their voluntary participation.

     c.    The Missing Persons Investigative Best Practices Protocol Unidentified Deceased Persons Investigative Guidelines, promulgated by the Missing Persons and Child Exploitation Unit in the Division of State Police, shall be revised to incorporate procedures for issuing an alert regarding missing persons believed to have a developmental disability.  The guidelines and procedures shall ensure that specific health information about the missing person is not made public through the alert or otherwise.

     d.    The Attorney General, with the assistance of the participating media, shall develop and undertake a public education campaign to inform the public about the Gold Alert System.

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

 

     2.    A Gold Alert authorized under this section may be activated in accordance with the following requirements, which shall be incorporated into the guidelines required by subsection c. of section 1 of P.L.      , c.      (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     a.    The law enforcement agency receiving the missing person report shall be the lead law enforcement agency.

     b.    The Missing Persons and Child Exploitation Unit in the Division of State Police, upon request, shall assist the lead law enforcement agency in the investigation of a Gold Alert.

     c.    Each of the following criteria shall be met before a Gold Alert may be issued:

     (1)   the person believed to be missing is believed to have a developmental disability regardless of age;

     (2)   a missing person's report has been submitted to the local law enforcement agency where the person went missing;

     (3)   the person believed to be missing may be in danger of death or serious bodily injury;

     (4)   there is sufficient information available to indicate that a Gold Alert would assist in locating the missing person; and

     (5)   sufficient information is available to disseminate to the public that could assist in locating the person.

 

     3.    a.  When a Gold Alert is activated pursuant to section 2 of P.L.      , c.      (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the participating media shall voluntarily agree, upon notice from the State Police, to transmit emergency alerts to inform the public of a missing person with a developmental disability who resides within their broadcast service regions.  The notice shall be provided through the State Police operational dispatch unit.

     b.    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.

     c.    The alerts shall include a description of the missing person, including notice that the missing person may appear agitated or upset, instructions as to whether the missing person should be approached and, if appropriate, instructions on how to approach the missing person, and such other information as the State Police may deem pertinent and appropriate.  The alerts also shall provide information concerning how those members of the public who have information relating to the missing person may contact the State Police or other appropriate law enforcement agency. 

     d.    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 Gold Alert.  Through the use of their variable message signs, the department and the affected authorities shall inform the motoring public that a Gold Alert is in progress and provide information relating to the missing person and how motorists may report any information they have to the State Police or other appropriate law enforcement agency.  The State Police operational dispatch unit shall also ensure that employees of the New Jersey Transit Corporation and adult school crossing guards who are on duty at any time when the Gold Alert is in effect receive notice of the Gold Alert, along with all pertinent information.

     e.    The State Police shall in a timely manner update the broadcast media and any other entity receiving notice of the Gold Alert with new information when appropriate concerning the missing person.

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

     4.    This act shall take effect on the first day of the fourth month next following the date of enactment, but the Attorney General may take such anticipatory administrative action in advance thereof as shall be necessary for the implementation of this act.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would require the Attorney General to establish a “Gold Alert System,” which would provide for the rapid dissemination of information regarding a missing person who has a developmental disability.  The program would be a voluntary, cooperative effort between State and local law enforcement agencies and the media.

     A Gold Alert would be activated only if the following circumstances are present:

     (1)   the person believed to be missing is believed to have a developmental disability regardless of age;

     (2)   a missing person's report has been submitted to the local law enforcement agency where the person went missing;

     (3)   the person believed to be missing may be in danger of death or serious bodily injury;

     (4)   there is sufficient information available to indicate that a Gold Alert would assist in locating the missing person; and

     (5)   sufficient information is available to disseminate to the public that could assist in locating the person.

     The law enforcement agency receiving the missing person report would be the lead law enforcement agency.  The Missing Persons and Child Exploitation Unit in the Division of State Police, upon request, would assist the lead law enforcement agency in the investigation of a Gold Alert.

     When a Gold Alert is activated, the participating media would transmit emergency alerts to inform the public of a missing person with a developmental disability who resides within their broadcast service regions.  The notice would be provided through the State Police operational dispatch unit.  The alerts would 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 would be rebroadcast at such intervals as the investigating authority, the State Police and the participating media deem appropriate.

     The alerts would include a description of the missing person, including notice that the missing person may appear agitated or upset, instructions as to whether the missing person should be approached and, if appropriate, instructions on how to approach the missing person, and such other information as the State Police may deem pertinent and appropriate.  The alerts would also provide information concerning how members of the public who have information relating to the missing person 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 would also notify the Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Highway Authority, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, and the South Jersey Transportation Authority of the Gold Alert.  Through the use of their variable message signs, the department and the affected authorities would inform the motoring public that a Gold Alert is in progress and provide information relating to the missing person and how motorists may report any information they have to the State Police or other appropriate law enforcement agency.  The State Police operational dispatch unit would also ensure that employees of the New Jersey Transit Corporation and adult school crossing guards who are on duty at any time when the Gold Alert is in effect receive notice of the Gold Alert along with all pertinent information regarding the missing person.  The State Police would be required to provide timely updates with new information when appropriate.  The alerts would terminate upon notice from the State Police.

     The Attorney General would notify the media serving the State of the establishment of the Gold Alert System and invite their voluntary participation. Additionally, and with the assistance of the participating media, the Attorney General would develop and undertake a public education campaign to inform the public about the Gold Alert System.  The Missing Persons Investigative Best Practices Protocol Unidentified Deceased Persons Investigative Guidelines, promulgated by the Missing Persons and Child Exploitation Unit in the Division of State Police, would be revised to incorporate procedures for issuing a Gold Alert.  The guidelines and procedures would be required to ensure that specific health information about the missing person not be made public through the alert or otherwise.

     Authorities suggest that locating a missing person who has a developmental disability within the first 24 hours following the person’s disappearance greatly increases the chances of finding that person alive and unharmed.  Because persons with developmental disabilities may not appear to be in distress, it is often difficult to recognize that the person is missing and needs assistance.  Similarly, because a missing person with a developmental disability may become agitated or upset, the missing person might appear hostile and deter others from approaching and attempting to provide assistance.  The Gold Alert System would aid in efforts to rapidly identify and aid people who have a developmental disability who wander or go missing.