Glitches in New System to Blame For Slow Amber Alert in Iowa

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WINTERSET, Iowa  --  The idea behind an Amber Alert is a simple one: "The sooner we can get those alerts out, that means the sooner we can find the children that are missing," said Trooper Alex Dinkla with the Iowa State Patrol.

In the spring, a new system was installed to issue Amber Alerts faster for some of Iowa's most serious child abduction cases.

Dinkla said, "In May, the Iowa Department of Public Safety initiated their own in-house Amber Alert system, and all the internal tests showed it was functioning how it was supposed to."

On Tuesday, as authorities searched for three Clay County children they believed to have been abducted by Danica Noel Arzaga, the system's first test of live alerts sent around 4 p.m. were hit and miss.

"It would just work sporadically. Some cell users were getting those notifications, some were not, and once we realized this fix could not be fixed quickly we just went back to the old way we used to do it," said Dinkla.

The old method was contacting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which caused further delay.

"The delay on that process was that we have our own approval process, and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children have their own process. Once we sent it to them, at 7:30 they issued that alert across all cell phones," said Dinkla.

This means some cell phone users were not alerted until three hours after the initial intended alert.

"We've taken a look in our system to find out what those glitches and mishaps were and those have been fixed and remedied," Dinkla said.

It was not a gold star performance for the new technology, but the most important results were the children.

Dinkla said, "The children were returned safely to family members. They are doing well."

The last Iowa Amber Alert came out of Polk County in January 2017.