Nona Best literally deals with life-and-death calls every day.
She’s the director of the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons. It’s her call on when – and if – to put out a Silver or Amber Alert when someone goes missing.
And they do, indeed, go missing.
“I get phone calls all the time and say, people just don’t disappear off the face of the earth. And I want to say, ‘yeah, they do,’” Best said.
Silver Alerts began popping up around 2006 when states looked to have an adult version of the Amber Alerts that began 10years earlier. Amber Alerts are named for a 10-year-old girl, Amber Hagerman, who went missing from her home in Arlington, Texas (between Dallas and Ft. Worth) in December of 1995 and was later found dead near the home.
In North Carolina, Amber Alerts (which is also an acronym, America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) are for people 17 and younger. Although they are nearly twice as likely to go missing as adults, for which Silver Alerts are used, the state issues far fewer Amber Alerts. In 2018 – the last year for which there is complete data – the state issued 410 Silver Alerts but just 8 Amber Alerts.
“It’s a lot of pressure on the Amber Alert,” Best said. “Why? Because I’m dealing with a child, I want to make the right decision.”
Best is worried about saddling a developing person with a life-long stigma.
“When it comes to a teenager youth, I want it to be critical where that youth is maybe suicidal or that youth is having a bipolar episode.”
Best works with local law enforcement when issuing all of the alerts but, in the end, it’s her decision.
“Amber Alert is when you get the most pushback. You get to runaway and people don’t understand the criteria for the Amber,” Best says.
See how the system works in this episode of the Buckley Report.