(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo, Jamel Holley, Vincent Mazzeo and Joann Downey to expand the reach of missing persons notices via social media cleared a Senate panel on Thursday.
The bill (A-2519) would require the attorney general, in consultation with the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), to develop a plan to disseminate Amber and Silver Alert information via NJSP social media accounts.
Any other appropriate state, county or municipal entity may also choose to broadcast the information using its social media accounts.
“Just as people use outlets like Facebook and Twitter to connect with friends and family, law enforcement officials can also use social media to reach the public when someone is missing,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex) “By employing networks we already have in place to further publicize Amber and Silver Alerts, we can reach a far larger audience at no additional cost and help reunite families as soon as possible.”
“Most people connect and receive their news through social media,” said Holley (D-Union). “Using social media to broadcast information about people who have gone missing is so simple, yet so smart. Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account knows the power of sharing a post or retweeting. In missing persons cases, the more people we can reach can make a difference in the outcome.”
“Being able to get information out to as many people as possible about a missing person is crucial in these cases,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Most people are plugged into social media and use it consistently. There is no reason why law enforcement should not be able to use it to spread the word about Amber and Silver Alerts, and help bring people who are in danger safely back home.”
“Law enforcement should be able to use any effective means of communication to help locate people who have gone missing,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “The fact that these cases involve children and people who are debilitated makes the situation more urgent. This is an effective way to get the word out to the public and increase the chances of finding people who have gone missing.”
Under the bill, information posted on social media may include, but not be limited to, a description and recognizable photograph of the missing person and any known details of the abduction or disappearance.
Under New Jersey law, broadcast media may use Amber Alerts to transmit an emergency alert to inform the public of child abduction. Similarly, Silver Alerts provide for the rapid dissemination of information about a missing person who is believed to be suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairment.
The measure was advanced by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. The bill was approved 75-0 by the Assembly in June. It now awaits further consideration by the Senate.