Understanding Amber Alerts in the wake of Major Harris’s disappearance

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) — The first Amber Alert for Major Harris was issued Saturday, two days after his mother was found deceased in Milwaukee. The alert’s timing prompted some people to ask why.

The answer is that issuing those alerts can take time.

“In general, it can just take time to gather enough details that meet their criteria for the state,” Onalaska Police Chief Charles Ashbeck said. “So, if we don’t have that criteria, it doesn’t pay to send in that request because it’s going to get denied.”

In Wisconsin, criteria for issuing Amber Alerts include:

  1. The child must be 17 or younger.
  2. The child must be in danger of serious bodily harm or death.
  3. The agency initiating the alert must have enough descriptive information about the child, the suspect or the suspect vehicle.

Once the alert is approved and sent out, the community can go to work.

“Being interested, and being the eyes and ears and being members of the public. I mean, really, that’s what this broadcast is for and intended for: to get that information out there,” said Leemie Kahng-Sofer, the case management director for the missing children division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

As the search for Major continues, officials encourage people to keep their eyes open and share his story.

“Look out for any sort of clues. If they hear anything, if they see anything — to immediately share that with law enforcement.”

The Amber Alert for Major now is active only in Wisconsin, but those living in other states can raise awareness by sharing Major’s story online.

As of early July, more than a thousand children American have been rescued across the country specifically because of Amber Alerts. Since the program began, 51 of those children came from Wisconsin alerts.

If you have any information about the case, you are urged to contact law enforcement.

The Onalaska Police Department’s non-emergency dispatch number is (608) 782-7575.

The Milwaukee Police Department can be contacted at (414) 933-4444.

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