Tennessee Missing Children Alerts & Criteria
As the state’s lead law enforcement agency, the TBI works to share information among law enforcement agencies about missing children, offers investigative support, and issues alerts to raise the public awareness of the most serious of cases. The TBI is the missing children’s clearinghouse for the state, and is the only agency in the state that can issue an AMBER Alert.
Each state has different criteria for missing children alerts. The TBI formed Tennessee’s thresholds based on national best practices and to give the agency both consistency and flexibility, to respond in the most appropriate way depending on the evidence in each case.
The TBI reserves AMBER Alerts for the most serious of missing children cases, in which law enforcement believes that a child is in imminent danger. In AMBER Alerts, the TBI harnesses the strengths of partner agencies – including TEMA, the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, the National Weather Service, TDOT, and others – to amplify the message of vital information about the missing child and, if available, the suspect, vehicle, and direction of travel.
In order to issue an AMBER Alert, the following criteria must be met:
1. The person is 17 years of age or younger, and;
2. The child is in imminent danger of bodily injury or death, and;
3. There is a description of the child, the abductor or vehicle, and;
4. On a request from another state for activation, there is a direct and identified nexus to the state of Tennessee and that information is conveyed to TBI at the time of the request.
Issuing an AMBER Alert is not as simple as pressing a single button at TBI Headquarters. Instead, it’s a complex process, requiring various layers of notification across Tennessee. The TBI places priority on notifying the media, the National Weather Service, TDOT, and TBI’s social media audience, in an effort to quickly share information with the public at large. The TBI also works with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to activate the cellular telephone network, billboards, and other secondary alert notifications.
- The TBI reserves this type of alert for missing children cases in which there is a concern for the child’s safety.
In issuing an Endangered Child Alert, the TBI notifies local media – in specific regions of the state – about the missing child, along with any additional available information. The TBI also uses social media to further share the relevant information.
- At the request of a local law enforcement agency, the TBI will include information about missing children who may be missing as a result of parental abduction, runaway, or otherwise “at-risk” on its website. The website list does not represent all missing children in Tennessee, just those cases where the TBI receives a request from a parent, guardian or local law enforcement, and the case may benefit from additional publicity.