Police should re-evaluate policy on missing children

On the evening of May 2, family members of Ameer Al Shammari called the Buffalo police to report him missing. In response to their concerns, the Police Department stated it could not put out an AMBER Alert until Ameer was missing for 24 hours. That 24-hour mark never came. Ameer was found strangled to death in an abandoned golf park off Amherst Street just less than 24 hours later. His alleged killer, 13-year-old Jean Sanchez, reportedly confessed to killing Ameer after stealing his iPhone.

Ameer’s death has shocked the community and left many questions unanswered. One of my concerns is the inaction by the Police Department to investigate Ameer’s whereabouts after his family reported him missing. The need to wait 24 hours is unclear. The purpose of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the community in the search for and safe return of an abducted child. New York State AMBER Alert can be activated when law enforcement has reasonable cause to believe that an abduction of a child under the age of 18 has occurred, and the child is believed to be in danger of serious bodily harm or death.

Ameer was 13 and missing on a Friday night, factors that suggest he was in harm’s way. The department’s 24-hour policy offsets any purpose the AMBER Alert serves and any crime preventive and investigative measures that are in place. The department needs to amend its policies and rethink how it responds to reports of missing children, especially since children are vulnerable targets.

Samih Tayeh