Residents of New York were rocked to the core when an AMBER Alert was activated some 16 hours after 9-year-old Charlotte Sena was abducted from an Upstate New York State Park in which she was riding her bike.

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Sena was rescued during the evening hours of October 2, thanks to the combined efforts of multiple agencies, and was found to be in good health, but questions still remain as to why it took authorities so long to issue an AMBER Alert.

The AMBER Alert system in New York State is designed to quickly notify the public when a child is abducted and believed to be in imminent danger but there are some criteria that must be followed before an AMBER Alert is activated.

What Are the Criteria To Activate an AMBER Alert in New York?

The first step that must be taken is for local law enforcement agencies to contact the New York State Police Special Victims Unit with details about the case. The New York State Police Special Victims Unit then evaluates the case to ensure that it meets the activation criteria. The criteria to activate an AMBER Alert is that an abduction of a child under the age of 18 has taken place and that the child is believed to be in danger of serious bodily harm and/or death.

When Might an AMBER Alert Not Be Activated in New York?

Sometimes, even when the criteria are met, an AMBER Alert activation does not take place if the information provided to the New York State Police Special Victims Unit is incomplete, or a great length of time has passed since the disappearance.

How Much Time Has To Pass Before an Amber Alert Is Activated in New York?

There is nothing on the New York State AMBER Alert website to indicate that a certain amount of time must pass between when a child is abducted and the New York State Police Special Victims Unit receives all of the information needed to activate the alert.

Does the Federal Government Have Criteria for Launching an AMBER Alert?

Although each state has slightly different criteria for activating an AMBER Alert, the United States Department of Justice has its own recommended criteria.

The United States Department of Justice recommends that an AMBER Alert only be activated if law enforcement has a reasonable belief that an abduction of a child under the age of 18 has taken place, that law enforcement believes that the child is in serious danger of being physically harmed or killed, there is enough descriptive information about the victim and abduction, and that the abducted child's information has been entered into the National Crime Information Center system.

What Steps Take Place After an Amber Alert Is Activated in New York?

When an AMBER Alert is activated, the New York State Police Special Victims Unit must notify all area media, notify their state partners for assistance distributing the information, and post details of the alert on highway signs, ticket terminals, service areas, and at DMV offices.

Law enforcement must also notify the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services Missing Persons Clearinghouse, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), FBI offices in New York State, and the New York State Intelligence Center. Information is also shared with neighboring states and Canadian provinces if authorities believe the child may be taken there, and they must send updated messages as the investigation progresses.

What Happens if a Child Is Abducted but an AMBER Alert Isn’t Activated?

If an abduction occurs but law enforcement doesn't feel that it fits the necessary criteria to activate an AMBER Alert, the Division of Criminal Justice Services Missing Persons Clearinghouse has other ways to help law enforcement. Additionally, other ways to share the news with the media are deployed.

These 12 Vulnerable Adults Are Missing From Upstate New York

Each of these twelve individuals is missing from Upstate New York and is considered to be a vulnerable adult. If you know anything about any of them, please reach out to the New York Missing Persons Clearninghouse by calling 1-800-346-3543.

Gallery Credit: Traci Taylor

These Seven College Students Vanished In New York State

When each of these young people vanished, they were college students in the state of New York. If you have any information on the whereabouts of any of these individuals, please reach out to the New York Missing Persons Clearinghouse by calling 1-800-346-3543.

Gallery Credit: Traci Taylor

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