Grand Rapids Police explain AMBER Alert criteria after 2 issued in less than week

Posted at 9:12 PM, Aug 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-06 22:29:31-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Two AMBER Alerts  were issued in Grand Rapids in less than a week after one hadn’t been issued since 2016. Police say the alerts are extremely rare and must meet a certain criteria.

The two incidents in the last week don't fit the typical mold, according to Grand Rapids Police.

"In the last week, we did have two AMBER Alerts in the city of Grand Rapids, both of those were missing children under the age of two,"said Grand Rapids Police Sgt. Cathy Williams.

One-year-old Miquis Jenkins, allegedly abducted by his babysitter Iyesha Gibbs on Thursday, was later returned safely to his family. Gibbs is now facing charges.

Then early Sunday morning an alert was triggered for 1-year-old Jaionna Ross, after her mother said her car was stolen with her daughter inside.

“I do understand the frustration of being woken up in the middle of the night, but I also want to express our priorities as a police agency," said Sgt. Williams. "If there’s a missing child out there and we think that child might be in danger, we won’t hesitate to request that AMBER Alert in the middle of the night.”

Police later determined that report was false and that child was with a family member.

When it comes to those AMBER Alerts being issued, Williams says they send their information to the Michigan State Police who then determine whether it meets the criteria for an alert.

“What Michigan State Police requires is for us to be able to show that the child was abducted and or that that child is in immediate danger of harm or up to death," said Sgt. Williams.

Williams says they went back and forth with State Police about one-year-old Jenkins and their request for an AMBER Alert was initially denied.

“As the case unfolds, the time lapse, the lack of communication, those kinds of things play into it, so even though we didn’t meet those two criteria initially, as the case progressed and we kept updating them, they did finally issue that AMBER Alert," said Williams.

Despite the incidents not fitting the typical mold, Sgt. Williams says they were successful.

“In both cases they worked, in both cases the AMBER Alert led to those children being returned home safely,” said Williams.

The MSP website calls the AMBER Alert system a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies and the wireless industry. Sgt. Williams says part of their success is that they’re rare.

“Obviously the fact that we’ve only had two in two years speaks volumes to how we so carefully and rarely use this," said Williams. "So, when we do, we mean it and we have reason to believe that child’s in danger, so when we do we want the public to take it seriously and we do want their help and their involvement in trying to locate that child to bring them home.”

Williams says they get reports of about two or three missing children in Grand Rapids every month on average, but obviously most of them do not meet the criteria to issue an AMBER Alert.

As for that second incident which turned out to be a false report, police are still looking into a motive and plan to send their case to the prosecutor’s office for review to see what charges might be filed.