⚠  Father did not return with daughter on Wednesday

⚠  Why was the statewide Amber Alert necessary?

⚠  Criteria for activating an Amber Alert

A father and his infant daughter who were the subject of a pre-dawn Amber Alert were located at the base of the Commodore Barry Bridge on Thursday morning.

Phones across New Jersey buzzed at 4:15 a.m. about the abduction of 7-month-old Emerie Rivera Black by her father, Ramon B. Rivera Jr., 22, of Vineland.

Father did not return with daughter on Wednesday

Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said they had been together at the Chick-fil-A at the Cumberland Mall in Vineland Wednesday night when Rivera fled.

Vineland police contacted Rivera and confirmed that he had his daughter and gave him the chance to return to the city. When they did not come back to the city, the Amber Alert was issued.

The alert was canceled after they were found at 7:30 a.m. near the bridge in Logan Township, 30 miles west of Vineland.

Rivera was charged with simple assault of a victim, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, endangering the welfare of a child, unlawful possession of a weapon and harassment.

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Sign for an Amber Alert on Route 295 in Lawrence 1/5/23
Sign for an Amber Alert on Route 295 in Lawrence 1/5/23 (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)

Why was the statewide Amber Alert necessary?

Despite the abduction of the girl in South Jersey, why did phones go off all over the state? It's because time is of the essence and New Jersey is a small state, according to State Poice Lt. Lance Moorhouse, whose Missing Persons & Human Trafficking Unit activates Amber Alerts.

"We're in a very unique state being that typically anybody can travel from the bottom county of Cape May all the way up to the north end county and out of our state in approximately three to three and a half hours," Moorhouse said.

"When we activate the alert we activate it statewide, because usually, and even in the case of this investigation, we're always behind the eight ball."

Moorhouse said it's not the intention of State Police to unnecessarily wake people up out of a sound sleep.

"The information that we get that someone's going to harm a child, in my opinion, is one of the most important things to get the public involved," Moorhouse said.

Criteria for activating an Amber Alert

Moorhouse said there are four criteria for activating an Amber Alert.

🔴 Confirmation a child has been abducted

🔴 The child is under the age of 18

🔴 The belief that activation of the Amber Alert would successfully recover the child.

🔴 Reliable information that the child is in serious danger

"We must have reliable information that the abducted child is in danger of death or serious bodily injury. That's the most important criteria. And that one right there is usually what determines whether we're going to issue the Amber Alert or not," Moorhouse said.

Thursday's Amber Alert met all four criteria. It also took advantage of the ability to expand it to adjoining states.

Moorhouse said the system is not perfect and a meeting takes place after the fact to discuss what could be better for future activations.

"That's going to happen whether the investigation ends in a tragedy or a success," Moorhouse said.

History of Amber Alerts

Amber Alerts were first used in 1996 as a way to alert the community about an abduction. It is named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas and then brutally murdered. All 50 states had an Amber Alert system by 2005.

Most cell phones can be set to be silenced for Amber Alert and other alerts for weather.

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The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system allows government officials to immediately and automatically push messages to all cell phones and mobile devices within a specific geographical area. There are a total of 13 types of messages that can currently be sent as a Wireless Emergency Alert. Nine of them are weather-related warnings, including one that is brand new as of August 2021.

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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