I was actually on holiday in Lake Tahoe last week, hiking around with my family, when all our cell phones went off simultaneously. It was an Amber Alert message on behalf of Hannah Anderson, 16, and her 8 year-old brother Ethan. Family friend James Lee DiMaggio was suspected of abducting Hannah, as well as killing her mother, Christina. The remains of a child at the burning wreckage of DiMaggio's home in San Diego County was later identified as Ethan Anderson. Hannah Anderson was recovered in Idaho Saturday and suspect DiMaggio was killed by law enforcement.
It was the first such usage of the Amber Alert statewide network. Despite being more than 500 miles away from the point of the abduction, we received notice of the kidnapping. And judging from the snippets of conversation of others around us, it had many talking, albeit in a confused way. I don't know how many Californians realized that they had authorized this kind of communication, and because the information included a little-known location, there was an assumption that it was a local incident (don't forget, the Lake Tahoe area is where Jaycee Dugard was abducted years ago). But it did lead people to look into the abduction and it was only a matter of days before a horseback rider reported seeing two people matching Anderson and DiMaggio out in a remote part of Idaho.
So the system works. Great.
So why hasn't it been employed for Daphne Webb?
Twenty-one-month-old Daphne Viola Webb was last seen on the morning of July 10 around the 1400 block of 79thAvenue in Oakland. She and the Anderson children represent the only Amber Alerts in effect in the United States, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.[..]
An Amber Alert, which remains in effect, was issued for the child on July 15 in Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco counties.[..]
Officials are now searching for a woman who was reportedly seen walking away from the area carrying a small child at the time Daphne vanished.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports there are no vehicles associated with the child’s abduction.
Meanwhile, the family has started the website FindBabyDaphne.com to help spread the word and bring attention to their search.
Make no mistake, I'm thrilled that the system worked and Hannah Anderson is alive and safe. But what determines which abduction merits a statewide cellphone alert? Why are we not getting as much attention to little Daphne Webb?