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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate passes legislation to expand Gold Alert system to include missing children

June 22, 2023

DOVER – The Delaware Senate on Thursday passed bipartisan legislation to help law enforcement agencies more quickly disseminate information about missing children and mobilize the public to assist in their safe return.

Senate Bill 108 would close a gap in Delaware’s current missing person alert system that prevents law enforcement from issuing a public notification about a lost child without clear evidence of their abduction or imminent risk to their welfare.

“Many of the roughly 900 children reported missing in Delaware each and every year never come home simply because we don’t have the same tools at our disposal when it comes to locating runaways as we do for other missing children,” said Sen. Nicole Poore, the prime sponsor of SB 108.

“A parent who is desperately searching for their missing child deserves to know we are doing everything in our power to bring them home,” she said. “I want to thank my colleagues in the Senate for voting today to help families get information about their missing child out to the public as quickly as possible so we can all work together to locate our children before they become the victims of human trafficking or end up living on the streets.”

Sen. Poore introduced SB 108 in May after working with the family of a 15-year-old girl who went missing from the Christiana Mall in October 2022. Like other families of missing children who are suspected of running away, the child’s family completed a missing person report that was then shared with state and federal law enforcement agencies. 

However, because the case did not meet the high threshold for the issuance of Amber Alert, no information about the missing child was disseminated to the public for nearly two months. Even after Delaware State Police held a press conference seeking the public’s help, an additional two  months passed before the child was located.

The U.S. Department of Justice has long warned that the high threshold required for an Amber Alert can inhibit search efforts for missing children, while the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recommends that investigators assume missing children are in danger, especially during the critical, early stages of an investigation.

SB 108 would significantly reduce the time for critical information about a missing child to be disseminated to the public by providing investigating agencies with the discretion to issue a Gold Alert when a missing child’s disappearance appears to pose a credible threat to their health and safety.

First established in Delaware in 2008, Gold Alerts are currently issued by Delaware State Police to disseminate information about missing seniors, missing people with disabilities and missing people believed to be suicidal.

“When a child goes missing, every second counts and every effort must be made to ensure their swift and safe return,” said Rep. Krista Griffith, the House prime sponsor of SB 108. “SB 108 recognizes this urgency and addresses it head-on by allowing law enforcement to quickly share information with the public that could be instrumental in bringing a child home safely. I commend Sen. Poore for bringing this legislation forward and for working to protect one of our most vulnerable populations – our missing children.”

SB 108 now heads to the House for final consideration.