By Cherri Gregg
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – The head of Pennsylvania’s Amber Alert system will be the keynote speaker at a community event in Southwest Philadelphia tomorrow to educate parents of color on what to do if their child is abducted.
According to http://www.BlackandMissing.com, nearly a quarter million minorities were reported missing in 2013. Nearly 180,000 were under age 17.
“If you really think your child was abducted or taken, you really should call police,” says Pennsylvania State Police Cpl Patrick J. Zirpoli. He is the coordinator for Pennsylvania’s Amber Alert system and says parents can quickly get the word out about a missing child by calling local police who will notify state police. He says state police will issue and Amber Alert if the child is under 18, is believed to be taken by force by a non-custodial parent and is believed to be in danger.
Zirpoli says the Amber Alert gets the word out fast using the emergency broadcast system.
“You’ll hear it over the radio, you’ll see it over the television. We’ll then notify the turnpike PennDOT, the lottery commission,” he says.
Zirpoli says Pennsylvania state police issued nine amber alerts last year. One of the most memorable in Philadelphia was connected to the abduction of a 5-year-old girl from a West Philadelphia elementary school (see related story).
“Last year we had a 100 percent success rate with our Amber alerts,” says Zirpoli, noting the success rate comes thanks to tips from the public and from children being released once the alert is issued.
Zirpoli will speak at Myers Recreation Center at 5801 Kingsessing Avenue, where parents can get free fingerprints and photos of their children from 6pm to 8pm on Friday. This “Urban Amber Alert” event is organized by Gateway to Re-Entry and the International Institute for Advanced Instruction.
“A lot of people don’t know what to do until it happens to them,” says Tracey L. Fisher, founder of Gateway to Re-Entry, who says he decided to host the event after seeing photos of missing African American children on Facebook.
“Something is wrong here, for these kids to be missing like this,” he says, “we just want to raise awareness.”
Fisher says the event will include free pizza and popsicle for kids. He says the event comes thanks to Pennsylvania Senator Anthony Williams, Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and others.