What Gov't Shutdown Means for the Missing: Impact on Amber Aler - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

What Gov't Shutdown Means for the Missing: Impact on Amber Alerts?

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Aiken County, SC -

The nation's Amber Alert system is one area where it's unconscionable that a partial government shutdown would have an impact.

But a white screen reading, "Due to a lapse in federal funding, this Office of Justice Programs website is shutdown," is all anyone looking at the National Amber Alert website saw Monday morning.

Families of the missing say they couldn't imagine, this resource being a victim of the shutdown:

"I would say to any lawmaker, certainly don't let victims be further victimized because of your bickering, your unwillingness to get along, your unwillingness to bend," says Police Chief David Smith.

Smith isn't solely speaking as a law enforcement officer:  The reason he's a law enforcement officer is his nephew--Jeremy Grice--has been missing for more than 20 years.  When Jeremy disappeared, the Amber Alert was not an option.

"You lose part of you, the not knowing slowly tears at you," Smith says.

Online many families were asking what if a child were to go missing while this website was shutdown, something Smith says shouldn't have happened.

"I can tell you as a family member that has a lot of 'what ifs,'" he says.

We wanted to investigate the impact this would have were a child to disappear.

"If we activated an Amber Alert, nobody would know we're in the situation we are with the government shutting down," South Carolina Amber Alert coordinator, Patti Ruff says, explaining that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division would swing into full action.

Amber Alerts are operated by each state, she explains; when a child goes missing the state law enforcement agency can alert other state agencies.

"If we activate an Amber Alert in South Carolina, we always call Georgia and North Carolina to let them know we're activating and to be on standby," Ruff says.

The Department of Justice website serves as a consolidated resource. Late Monday, the DOJ public affairs officer tweeted that the system had never been down, only the site, and that it was back up to avoid confusion.  But, Smith says he's confused how it ever was down - saying every second and every chance to show a child's face count:

"Speaking from my own experience, whenever a child is missing, you may have a few hours, you may have a few minutes, you just don't know," Smith says.  "Very rarely do we see the vehicle, do we see the child, it comes from a tip from that Amber Alert.

And law enforcement officers say they will still get those alerts out.

To learn more about Jeremy Grice's story, click here.

To learn more about the story of Tilwanda Cheatham, another Aiken County missing child, click here and here.

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