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Former Sheriff Dee Anderson Troubled Fort Worth Police Did Not Issue Regional Amber Alert In Salem Sabatka Kidnapping

CBS Dallas logo CBS Dallas 5/20/2019 Syndicated Local – CBS Dallas / Fort Worth
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Questions have emerged about why statewide Amber Alert wasn’t activated until five hours after the kidnapping.

Former Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson created the idea for the Amber Alert which began here in North Texas before spreading nationwide.

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Dee Anderson (CBS 11)

He says Fort Worth Police could have issued a regional Amber Alert within minutes of the Saturday evening kidnapping instead of waiting hours for the state to do it.

Within minutes of Salem Sabatka’s kidnapping in a Fort Worth neighborhood and captured by a homeowner’s doorbell camera, police had a description of a car and suspect.

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Salem Sabatka (Credit: Fort Worth Police Department/Twitter)

The 8-year-old was gone in an instant with an apparent stranger.

Former Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson says it’s a rare and perfect set of circumstances for a regional Amber Alert.

He should know.

Anderson came up with the idea while working as an Arlington officer after the kidnapping and murder of Amber Hagerman in 1996.

But Fort Worth Police never issued the regional alert which would have sent messages to cell phones, car radios and highway signs.

It wasn’t until five hours later when a state wide Amber Alert was issued through DPS.

Anderson is among those wondering why.

“I think the regional alert would’ve certainly been beneficial at that point,” said Anderson. “In my opinion, you’ve got all kinds of information and ironically, eight hours later, two people that had some kind of information about a description, find the vehicle miles and miles away. Would it not have been better to have everyone with a cell phone and a radio in the car looking?”

Fort Worth’s then-Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald and Mayor Betsy Price said a regional alert wasn’t issued because authorities didn’t have a license plate number.

Anderson says he’s activated “dozens and dozens” of Amber Alerts without a tag number.

Anderson stresses police departments need constant training on how and when to use a system that’s been proven effective.

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