ALBANY, N.Y. — State police senior investigator Gary Kelly has been New York's AMBER Alert coordinator for 12 years, and has seen 51 AMBER Alert activations in that time.
Not many have operated with such little information as the one in St. Lawrence County on Wednesday night. Two young Amish girls were believed to have been abducted by a stranger from their family's roadside farm stand.
"We have a generic vehicle description. We have the girls' names, their date of birth and a clothing description," Kelly said Thursday, at the state police central communications hub in Albany. "But outside of that, we don't have a whole lot of additional information for the public."
There is no license plate number, no specific vehicle make and model, and no solid suspect identification. Police are also operating on very vague ideas where the suspect may have headed.
"We activated regions four, six and eight," said Kelly. "When we put out a second alert later, we included additional regions one, two and three."
The way AMBER Alert divides New York into regions, means the alert was broadcasted from Buffalo to Albany, including the entire Southern Tier and most of New York's Adirondack mountain range. Social media shares and news coverage have stretched the message even further.
Kelly said Wednesday that in the 12-year history of New York's AMBER Alert program, all 62 children reported abducted have been recovered alive, and returned to their home or to protective custody. Only one suffered serious injuries during their abduction.
The AMBER Alert for the two Amish girls will remain active until the girls are recovered. Road signs will continue to flash descriptive information, and available updates will be provided to local news outlets.
Urgent updates may also be force-communicated to cell phone users in the area of the abduction investigation, by way of a 20-month-old program called the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. More information here.