Governor Susana Martinez today announced the implementation of the expanded Amber Alert program and the new Silver Alert Program today at a news conference in Albuquerque. Governor Martinez says both tools will help law enforcement and case workers keep vulnerable children and seniors safer.
"I have long advocated that we do everything we can to protect an endangered child," Governor Martinez said. "Before now, Amber Alert statutes required law enforcement to sit on the sidelines when a child was taken by a family member, even when that child was though to be in danger. Now, our state and local police agencies can conduct the all-out search that is necessary to find a child who has been abducted, whether it's by a stranger or a family member."
The expanded Amber Alert went into effect in June as result of House Bill 104. The new law allows law enforcement to issue an Amber Alert for a child who is believed to have been abducted by a family member, as long as officials have reason to believe the child is in danger. Previously, New Mexico law enforcement agencies could only issue Amber Alerts if a child was abducted by a non-relative.
The Silver Alert program went into effect today, July 1, 2013 as a result of House Bill 131. Under the new law, the New Mexico Department of Public Safety can issue Silver Alerts to law enforcement, the media, and the public when seniors suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia go missing.
"A statewide Silver Alert program will protect seniors who might not be able to protect themselves," said Governor Martinez. "New Mexico seniors suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia, and their families, can now be assured that law enforcement, and the general public, will be on the lookout should one of our loved ones go missing. I'm
grateful for Rep. Pacheco's work to guide this bill through the legislative process and the City of Albuquerque for laying the groundwork for this critical initiative."
"Caring for our most vulnerable is paramount," Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said. "We have heard about too many tragedies in which people with Alzheimer's disease have wandered off and lost their lives. Had they been quickly found, they could still be with us today."
Already this morning, the new Silver Alert program has been proven to be successful. This morning, the Albuquerque Police Department issued a Silver Alert for Alzheimer sufferer 71-year old Ray Trujillo of Albuquerque at 6:23 a.m. Trujillo's family reported him missing earlier in the morning. After the Silver Alert was issued, Trujillo was
found safe by officers of the Albuquerque Police Department around 7:30 a.m. The City of Albuquerque established their Silver Alert program in 2012, and the state-wide program was modeled after Albuquerque's program.
"Both of these alerts will go a long way in protecting our most vulnerable citizens, the young and our older population. We were pleased that the Legislature saw fit to pass this important legislation this session," said Department of Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Gordon Eden.
House Bill 104 that expanded the Amber Alert Program was sponsored by Representative Kelly Fajardo (RBelen). "We have to be able to act quickly to do everything possible to protect an endangered child," said Fajardo. "Whether a child is abducted by a family member, an acquaintance, or a complete stranger, if police believe that child is in danger, we should all act quickly to prevent any further harm. By expanding our Amber Alert law, we are giving law enforcement an important tool that they can use to quickly find a missing child and possibly even save a life."
"This is a great day for children in New Mexico," said Children Youth and Families Secretary Yolanda BerumenDeines. "We have moved forward with additional tools to keep kids safe."
"When it comes to the welfare and safety of our children, the New Mexico State Police takes a very aggressive approach," said New Mexico State Police Robert W. Shilling. "We are confident that the additional parameters of the Amber Alert program will speed up the search for a child who has been taken from his or her home."
"Issuing a Silver Alert for a missing senior can go a long way toward protecting that person from harm and restoring peace of mind to a family in crisis," added Rep. Pacheco. "New Mexico now joins 30 other states who take this extra step to protect seniors. I'm proud that we are implementing this program statewide and I appreciate the governor's leadership and determination to make a difference for New Mexico's seniors and their families."
As New Mexico's baby boomers age, the state's Alzheimer's population is projected to increase from 31,000 in 2010 to 43,000 by 2025, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Among people with Alzheimer's, six in ten will wander, a phenomenon in which erosion of memory and cognitive abilities prevent a person from finding their way home. In New Mexico, there are 105,000 unpaid caregivers of seniors with Alzheimers or another form of dementia.
"I am grateful to Gov. Martinez and her administration for championing this bill," said Agnes Vallejos, Executive Director of the Alzheimer's Association, New Mexico Chapter. "This legislation does two important things. It aids in the swift, safe recovery of our most vulnerable citizens, and it provides peace of mind to the thousands of Alzheimer's caregivers in our state. Rather than leaving families to search on their own for at-risk seniors, this exponentially multiplies the number of Samaritans who might spot people missing people with Alzheimer's."