(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo, Annette Quijano and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to expand the reach of notices regarding missing persons was approved Monday by the Assembly.
The bill (A-2585) would require the attorney general, in consultation with the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), to develop a plan to disseminate Amber and Silver Alert information via NJSP social media accounts. In addition, the Office of the Governor, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services would be required to disseminate the information made available by the NJSP using their respective social media accounts.
Any other appropriate state, county or municipal entity may also choose to broadcast the information using its social media accounts.
“Just as people use outlets like Facebook and Twitter to connect with friends and family, law enforcement officials can also use social media to reach the public when someone is missing,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex) “By employing networks we already have in place to further publicize Amber and Silver Alerts, we can reach a far larger audience at no additional cost and help reunite families as soon as possible.”
Under the bill, information posted on social media may include, but not be limited to, a description and recognizable photograph of the missing person and any known details of the abduction or disappearance.
“Rescuing a missing individual who may be in danger has to be a community effort, and this legislation fosters that approach,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Because the likelihood of recovery increases if more people are aware of what to look for, it’s critical that we use the technology available to increase immediate visibility for these alerts.”
“There have been news stories about long lost relatives finding each other through Facebook. In one case, a brother and sister were reunited just days after the sister posted about her search on the site,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Social media is a powerful tool. We should take advantage of its reach to help law enforcement and increase the chances of finding individuals who go missing.”
Under New Jersey law, broadcast media may use Amber Alerts to transmit an emergency alert to inform the public of a child abduction. Similarly, Silver Alerts provide for the rapid dissemination of information about a missing person who is believed to be suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairment.
The bill was approved 76-0 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.