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Morgan Nick Alert

The Morgan Nick Alert is the Arkansas name for the nationally recognized Amber Alert Program designed to alert citizens that a juvenile is missing. For this reason, the Morgan Nick Alert is more formally known as the Morgan Nick Amber Alert. Named after Morgan Nick, a then six-year-old girl who went missing from Alma (Crawford County) in 1995, the Morgan Nick Alert is a partnered approach by local law enforcement, media, and civic groups to increase awareness of a possible abduction and thereby increase the probability of locating a missing child.

On June 9, 1995, Morgan Chauntel Nick was presumably abducted from the parking lot of a city park in Alma. Although thousands of leads have been investigated by the law enforcement community, her disappearance remains a mystery. Ever since the abduction of her daughter, Colleen Nick has remained focused on the return of her child and assisting others in locating missing children. In 1996, Colleen Nick founded the Morgan Nick Foundation, a non-profit organization to assist other families dealing with child abductions. It has been instrumental in implementing child photo identification and fingerprinting programs and has partnered with other programs such as the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children and the television show America’s Most Wanted.

The National Amber Alert was started in 1996 after the disappearance of Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas. Amber’s name was used as an acronym for the alert, which is known as “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.” The National Amber Alert is managed under the auspices of the Department of Justice.

A Morgan Nick Alert activation involves the participation of every law enforcement agency in Arkansas as well as over 250 local radio stations, television stations, and other media. Information is broadcast quickly to all participants so that details of a possible abduction can be disseminated.

The Morgan Nick Alert notification protocol acknowledges the Arkansas State Police as the lead agency to evaluate and prioritize actions. When a parent or guardian of a child contacts a local law enforcement organization to report a missing child, the local agency reviews the available information to determine if a Morgan Nick Alert notification is warranted. With the assistance of an Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigations Division investigator assigned to the local area, the local agency completes a Morgan Nick Alert notification information sheet and forwards it to the Arkansas State Police Headquarters in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In order to utilize all means of locating the child, the Arkansas State Police will request biographical information on the child, to include recent photographs and possible suspects. Once enough data has been obtained to inform the public, the Arkansas State Police makes a decision on whether to activate the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The EAS, previously known as the Emergency Broadcast System, is designed to interrupt current media broadcasts to provide information concerning serious events, including weather-related topics and other incidents requiring mass civilian notification. This alert system has expanded with technological improvements and provides coverage through other means, such as the Internet and cellular telephones.

Any activation of the Morgan Nick Alert requires the Arkansas State Police to determine what level of activation is applicable and justifiable based upon the variables of the incident. The Morgan Nick Alert may be implemented as a Level I or Level II activation. For a Level I activation, the Arkansas State Police evaluates all available information concerning the incident and only initiates an alert once it has determined that credible information exists suggesting an abduction has occurred or there exists a credible threat against an infant, child, or adolescent. (In all circumstances, the Morgan Nick Alert is only applicable for individuals under the age of eighteen.) If the Arkansas State Police activates a Level I Morgan Nick Alert, it will staff a Critical Incident Command Center to support the organization requesting assistance. This command center will assist in developing a broadcast flyer for the media and provide direction on the frequency or duration of broadcasts.

For a Level II, the Arkansas State Police serves as a conduit for local law enforcement Criminal Investigation Divisions to reach a wider audience. A Level II activation indicates that sufficient information does not suggest specific criminal involvement or that—due to the age or other circumstances—a credible threat is unsubstantiated. In these instances, Level II activations may be elevated if additional information becomes available. During a Level II activation, the Arkansas State Police serves as a facilitator; however, the originating agency has the authority to approve and issue the alert.

For additional information:
AMBER Alert. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. http://www.amberalert.gov/ (accessed April 9, 2007).

“Morgan Nick Amber Alert Field Operations Manual.” 2nd ed. Little Rock: Arkansas State Police, 2005. Online at http://www.asp.arkansas.gov/asp/pdf/mnaa_field_ops_manual_2005.pdf (accessed April 9, 2007).

Morgan Nick Foundation. http://www.morgannick.com/ (accessed April 9, 2007).

Jonathan Ford
Arkansas Army National Guard

Last Updated 8/7/2007

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