KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Police have the man in custody, and they know who the woman is who took off in a running car with the 3-year old inside, but she's still on the loose.
Some have questioned why an AMBER Alert wasn’t issued for the 3-year-old girl, and KCKPD’s chief is clearing the air. The girl was missing for about two hours. Police say they did start the process of issuing an Amber Alert, but it never ended up on your phone or highway signs for a number of reasons.
Greg Smith knows every minute is crucial when a child disappears.
"Your whole world just drops away, you are like really this happened to my kid. You don`t know where they are, are they safe or are they hurt," he told FOX 4's Dave D'Marko.
The father of Kelsey Smith, who was abducted and murdered a decade ago, was watching along with the rest of the metro on Wednesday night as police searched for the 3-year-old taken from a KCK gas station, likely by a pair who only planned to steal the car. But the only way FOX 4 or anyone knew about it initially was by following KCKPD Chief Terry Zeigler's Twitter account.
"Public picked it up, they started retweeting it, news media started showing up at the scene you guys were putting out the information," Chief Zeigler said.
Chief Ziegler says the rapid nature of Twitter suited the situation well, as opposed to an AMBER Alert which takes time to gather all the necessary elements needed for KBI to issue one.
"It`s just not an immediate thing that happens, now Twitter is instant," the police chief said.
He initially didn`t want to waste the time of a detective who could be searching, to be on the phone with KBI for the AMBER Alert. Police eventually called KBI 85 minutes after the reported abduction.
Smith, who along with his wife has testified before Congress about police investigations of missing children and the tools at their disposal, said the following:
"Yeah, Twitter is quick and you can get things out, but Twitter doesn`t hit everybody."
While following the breaking news, D'Marko snapped a photo of a blank highway sign the suspect likely drove right by as the frantic search went on.
In the end it was the Kelsey Smith Act that ultimately helped find the little girl, as police were able to quickly get phone records and ping a phone. They shared that information with a helicopter pilot who tracked down the car.
But what if no one spotted her before dark? What if there had been no cell phone to ping? Chief Ziegler believes in best case scenario an AMBER Alert probably would have only gone out about 30 minutes before she was found, and stands by his social media approach.
"If people have the notifications on their phones to get breaking news from the different media outlets that`s the same thing that AMBER Alert does, so I think we used our resources effectively," he said.
He did say his department is reviewing the entire investigation and may use AMBER Alerts as a tool from the very beginning along with social media in the future. He`s just relieved this case had a happy ending.