HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – A man accused of abducting two of his kids and trying to take them across the country was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison.
Timothy Truitt is accused, along with the children’s mother, Amelia Hamilton and her father Michael Hamilton, of abducting their kids from their legal guardian last year in Hampton.
The trio was caught two days later and the children were rescued.
10 On Your Side investigated the process that both Hampton Police and Virginia State Police followed when issuing the Amber Alert.
Information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Hampton Police Department first contacted Virginia State Police to inquire about an Amber Alert at 11:20 p.m. Oct. 16, 2022, the day the kids were abducted.
The Amber Alert was issued the following day at 4:35 p.m.
When we asked about the delay in issuing the alert, VSP responded by telling us:
“Hampton PD’s original request at that time did not fulfill all criteria as required by the Amber Alert program regulations. The criteria at issue was the one that prohibits us from activating an alert if the child(ren) is in the custody of a legal guardian/parent. If/when arrest warrants are obtained or the legal guardian/parent – this denying them legal custody of said child(ren)…then an Alert can be activated – which is exactly what took place in this situation.”– Virginia State Police
On its face, the Amber Alert program boasts a high success rate.
According to the DOJ, there have been more than 1,100 children successfully recovered through the Amber Alert system.
But at least one expert says that statistic is misleading – and Americans should lower their expectations about what the Amber Alert is capable of doing.
“The number of children’s lives saved by Amber Alert ranges from zero to something very close to zero,” said Timothy Griffin, criminology professor at University of Nevada, Reno.
Griffin says he’s studied more than 2,000 Amber Alert cases over ten years. Despite statistics showing a high success rate, he says Amber Alerts don’t really do much of anything when it comes to finding children in imminent danger.
“That’s because in the kinds of life-threatening cases that ironically caused the system to be created, there’s no hope,” Griffin said.
Griffin points to the criteria that goes into creating an Amber Alert.
According to the Department of Justice, there are five criteria points that need to be met, including a belief that the child is in imminent danger. Essentially, Griffin said, by the time criteria is determined to be met to issue the Amber Alert to the public, it’s likely too late to help a child who is in extreme danger.
“Does it have its flaws? Does it have its ebb and flow? Certainly, there is,” said former journalist Tom McKee, part of the team that created the original Amber Alert, “like any law does or any training does.”
“Who wouldn’t want to have the public involved? In this day and age with helping with the recovery of a child, we’ve got cell phones, we’ve got tablets, we’ve got all these devices,” he said.
“The mission certainly has been validated over time,” McKee said.
“Any parent who might have a child that goes missing is going to be frantic,” McKee said, “and they should be frantic. We have to understand that the police will do everything they can to try to do that, including the Amber Alert. “
But Griffin said the alerts are no more than a symbolic gesture used by police and media for what he calls “crime control theater.”
“I really believe that the officials tasked with implementing this system need to be more honest,” Griffin said, “and come clean with the public about its limitations.”