OSP: Missing children's center decides when Amber Alerts sent to phones

GRESHAM, Ore. - From their perspective, investigators say, Saturday's Amber Alert worked as it was supposed to, because in 10 hours they got the child back safe.

Police accuse Joshua Cavett of shooting and killing his wife, Jessie. He was arrested, and his 2-year-old daughter was found safe. Two people recognized Joshua Cavett from the Amber Alert and called 911.

But many people were expecting to be notified about the alert through their cellphones and wondered why they weren't.

Lt. Gregg Hastings, with Oregon State Police, said, during Amber Alerts, they send their information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited children, and it's up to that agency to decide if the criteria are enough to send out a cellphone alert.

"In this case, because there was no confirmed vehicle information or license plate, it evidently did not get activated," he said.

Hastings also said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has very specific criteria and limitations when sending cellphone alerts. They can only send alerts with 90 characters, they don't send out phone numbers, and they can't link to websites.

Conflicting information sent out

But for many people, the alert was less than clear. Highway reader boards only read, "Amber Alert: Tune to local news."

According to Gresham police Lt. Claudio Grandjean, his police department received the 911 call at 11:37. Within hours, Gresham police contacted the Oregon State Police, which is protocol to issue an Amber Alert.

And at 4:40 that alert went live across the state on TVs, radios and on the highway signs.

But why didn't the signs have much information?

Hastings said police sent out conflicting reports of Cavett's possible vehicle description. Like one tweet from the Gresham Police Department that read: "the Ford F-250 is NOT the vehicle Cavett is driving. That was erroneous. He may be in a black Charger, but we have nothing further..."

But Hastings said generic information could give the public and investigators false leads.

"You're limited on highway message signs how much information you can put on there," he said. "It can lead to poor leads that are phoned in and it could hamper the law enforcement resources that are out there."

Hastings said there was one delay getting information onto the web portal and on their website. That delay was human error and not because of the government shutdown.

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