Evaluating Vermont's First Amber Alert - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Evaluating Vermont's First Amber Alert

Brooke Bennett Brooke Bennett

Burlington, Vermont - July 11, 2008

It's construction season in Vermont-- and if you didn't know it-- all you'd have to do is read the electronic billboards... billboards that should have been displaying an Amber Alert when Brooke Bennett went missing two weeks ago.

"They just didn't contact us. If we'd been contacted, we would have put our system in place," said John Zicconi of the Vt. Agency of Transportation.

Vt. State police say they forgot to contact the Agency of Transportation.

"We in transportation don't make any assumptions. We're not in the business of dealing with lost children or children that are abducted, so we take all our cues from them," explained Zicconi.

"There may have been a little breakdown in communication," admitted Vt. State Police Lt. Mark Lauer.

There are several things that happen when an Amber Alert is issued.

Under Vermont's plan, messages are broadcast on television and radio airwaves, alerts are posted on lottery tickets, and transportation message boards display pertinent information.

Everything but the message boards went according to plan.

"We feel this actually went smoother than some of our practices," said Lauer.

Although police are disappointed that some television stations-- specifically Channel 3-- didn't issue more alerts of their own.

"If you didn't catch the very first part of the newscast you had no idea that an Amber Alert was going on," said Lauer.

Channel 3 has acknowledged some mistakes were made due to misunderstandings on procedure and those have been corrected.

Vt. State police waited nearly 24 hours to issue the alert, but they defend that decision.

They say Bennett's disappearance didn't initially meet Amber Alert criteria. In order for an alert to be issued, police must believe the child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. Police at first believed Brooke may have run away.

"She was reported as a runaway and her MySpace page indicated she was planning to meet somebody," explained Lauer.

Asked if things could have been done faster he replied, "Given the information and the criteria we had, this is as fast as things could go."

But police admit improvements could be made and say that will be a priority in the months to come.

Keagan Harsha - WCAX News

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