Bill Would Create Alert System for Missing Persons with Developmental Disabilities Similar to Amber Alert
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel Benson, Gabriela Mosquera, L. Grace Spencer and Benjie Wimberly to facilitate the immediate circulation of information about missing persons with developmental disabilities was approved by a Senate panel on Monday.
The bill (A-2709) would establish the “Gold Alert System,” a cooperative effort between law enforcement agencies and media outlets to broadcast emergency alerts about missing persons with developmental disabilities. The alerts would include physical descriptions and other pertinent details. Under the bill, consent must be obtained prior to disseminating information about the person who is believed to be missing.
“This legislation reflects our collective duty to protect some of the most vulnerable New Jersey residents,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “We must do all we can to ensure missing individuals can return home safe and sound, especially when we have all the necessary resources already in place.”
“When it comes to recovering a person who’s gone missing, we know that time is of the essence and knowledge is power,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “By creating widespread awareness as soon as possible, we can maximize the likelihood that a missing person will be found alive and unharmed.”
“We already have systems in place to alert the public when other vulnerable populations go missing,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This is another way to aid in the search of individuals who may be at a higher risk of going missing and may have a harder time seeking help because of their disabilities.”
“Timing is everything in a missing persons case. Even more so when the person who has gone missing has developmental disabilities that might make finding them that much more challenging,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Quickly alerting the public about a missing person increases the chances of the person being found safely.”
“The first 24 hours are crucial when a person goes missing,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “Having this information publicized quickly and vastly can help law enforcement in their search efforts. The more people know, the better the chances that the individual will be found unharmed.”
“Whenever a person goes missing, having more people on the lookout only increases the likelihood that the individual can return home safely,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This bill will help New Jersey residents work together to ensure that those with developmental disabilities are safe in our state.”
Under the legislation, a Gold Alert would be activated when a local law enforcement agency receives a missing persons report for an individual with a developmental disability. The State Police would aid in the investigation of the alert upon request from the local agency. In cooperation with law enforcement, participating media covering the missing person’s broadcast service region would transmit the alert to the public.
The legislation bears similarity to the Amber Alert and Silver Alert systems, which are designed to help locate abducted children and lost individuals with dementia or other cognitive impairments, respectively.
The bill was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.