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Emergency alert system for missing adults exists, but Utah doesn't use it

After an AMBER Alert was issued for the abduction of a person who was later identified as a 35- to 36-year-old woman, some people are asking about an alert system for missing adults. (KUTV)

An abducted Utah woman was found and the suspect arrested after police mistook the victim for a child and issued an AMBER Alert. Many have asked why emergency alerts are not issued for endangered adults more often.

There are different types of emergency alerts, each needs to meet certain criteria. AMBER Alerts are for children 17 and younger, who are abducted, and in danger. Silver alerts are for endangered adults 60 and older, who have been diagnosed with dementia.

That leaves a gap for adults age 18 to 59.

There is another kind of alert that would cover these cases, but Utah doesn't use them.

The South Salt Lake abduction was caught on camera Friday night. The victim was found, and the suspect arrested, partly because of what investigators didn't know.

"We did not have the name or the date of birth, and we were trying to put out the information on an AMBER alert,” said Danielle Croyle, spokesperson for the South Salt Lake Police Department.

Police put out the AMBER Alert thinking the victim was a teenager. Had they known she was actually a petite woman in her 30s, they would not have been able to issue the alert that helped save her.

"It was very successful. It helped the investigators narrow down those leads,” Croyle said.

What about other adults who are abducted or missing?

"Missing adults, I see it all the time. That's what we do a lot of,” said Jason Jensen, a private investigator, and co-founder of the Cold Case Coalition.

“When adults go missing there's no system in place in Utah,” he said.

Jensen searches for missing people, including those that fall between the gaps of AMBER and Silver Alerts.

"Why not cover everybody in between, if there is an actual abduction?” he asked.

In Utah, some missing adults may get an Endangered Missing Advisory, which notifies law enforcement and media, but there are no alerts sent to phones.

"When someone actually goes missing, they disappear. The system doesn't actually catch up with you until it's too late,” Jensen said.

There is another option, Ashanti Alerts. They are named after 19-year-old Ashanti Bille, who was abducted and killed in Virginia in 2017. The alerts help find missing adults like Ashanti, who are outside the scope of other emergency alerts.

The network was signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, but states must opt into the pilot program. Utah has not opted into the national program.

Jensen said adult abductions like the one Friday night are rare, but an adult alert system is worth a discussion.

"Would it hurt if we added them into the mix? I would encourage it," he said.

One concern about increasing the number of alerts is that overuse could desensitize the public to their messages.

KUTV did not immediately receive a response from the Utah Department of Public Safety, regarding if there is any interest in establishing the Ashanti Alert network in Utah.