by Zoneil Maharaj
A new bill signed into law Monday will expand the circumstances that activate the AMBER Alert system.
The bill, AB 535, which was authored by local assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), adds an amendment that now allows law enforcement to trigger an AMBER Alert when anyone — including parents and legal guardians — takes a child with intent to cause harm to the victim, according to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. The Alameda County District Attorney's Office and Alameda County were co-sponsors of the bill.Previously, the AMBER Alert could only be activated when a non-custodial parent or stranger abducted a child.
“When any child is abducted, regardless of the relationship between the abductor and the child, we must use all means at our disposal to bring about a swift and safe rescue,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley said in a statement.
The bill was inspired by a 2005 case from Walnut Creek when relatives of 5-year-old Jineva Discroll contacted authorities with concerns that the child’s mother might kill both Jineva and herself. Because Jineva was abducted by her mother, a statewide AMBER Alert could not be triggered, according to county officials.
Both the child and mother were found dead a week later in Sonoma County.
“No parent ever wants to have to report a missing child. However, when such action is needed, quick and coordinated response by law enforcement can help to safely return the child,” Assemblymember Bill Quirk said. “I am confident that this bill will be a powerful tool in helping law enforcement to swiftly find and recover a child that was taken by a stranger, friend or family member.”