What is a Blue Alert?

The purpose of the Blue Alert Program is to establish a quick response system designed to issue and coordinate alerts following a violent attack upon a law enforcement officer. The goal of a Blue Alert is to provide immediate information to the public about violent suspects via media broadcasts, and other notification resources to solicit help from the public in the safe and swift apprehension of the suspect.

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There are currently no active alerts

Background Information

On May 19, 2015, President Obama signed into law a measure that requires instant nationwide "Blue Alerts" to warn about threats to police officers and help track down the suspects who carry them out. The law was named in honor of two New York City Police Detectives who were assassinated while sitting in their police patrol car in December 2014. Their killer posted threats to law enforcement on social media before the attack. Implementing a nationwide Blue Alert system will help to ensure that information on credible threats, like those posted by the individual who killed Detectives Ramos and Liu, is widely disseminated so that officers have advanced warning, and can apprehend the criminal before he or she can do more harm.

On July 11, 2016, Governor Pat McCrory signed into law the Blue Alert Notification System. The Blue Alert Notification System will help protect the law enforcement community by establishing a notification process to aid in the apprehension of violent criminals who kill or cause serious bodily injury to local, state, or federal law enforcement officers. The Blue Alert System is modeled after the AMBER and Silver Alert systems that are currently in place in NC and the rest of the nation.

The Blue Alert System is a voluntary cooperative effort among North Carolina radio and television broadcasters, local and state law enforcement, the Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons. The goal is to use local radio and TV stations, electronic highway signs and lottery terminals to immediately notify citizens of the suspected assailant, facilitating their rapid apprehension by law enforcement. By using media broadcasts and Department of Transportation messaging signs, each Blue Alert would cover the state with information identifying a detailed description of the offender, the offender’s vehicle, and license plate information or other pertinent. In the event of a Blue Alert, a notification is sent out to law enforcement statewide that a suspect is on the run after seriously injuring or killing another officer. It also sends out alerts to the general public via various media outlets. This would inevitably hinder the violator’s ability to flee the state and facilitate a swift capture thus eliminating the threat to the community and law enforcement personnel.

Currently, there are 27 states that have implemented the Blue Alert program.

Criteria

All of the following statutory criteria ( NC G.S. 143B–1023) must be met before the NC Center for Missing Persons will activate a Blue Alert.

  • A law enforcement officer is killed or suffers serious bodily injury. Under NC G.S. 14-32.4(a), serious bodily injury is defined as bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or that causes serious permanent disfigurement, coma, a permanent or protracted condition that causes extreme pain, or permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or that results in prolonged hospitalization.

  • A law enforcement agency with jurisdiction determines that the suspect poses a threat to the public and other law enforcement personnel and possesses information that may assist in locating the suspect, including information regarding the suspect's vehicle, complete or partial license plate information, and a detailed description of the suspect, or that a law enforcement officer is missing while on duty under circumstances warranting concern for the law enforcement officer's safety.

  • The head of a law enforcement agency with jurisdiction recommends the issuance of a blue alert to the Center.

The North Carolina Center for Missing Persons is the only agency that can activate an Blue Alert and will do so ONLY at the request of an investigating law enforcement agency head. It is then the responsibility of the Center to determine whether there is sufficient identifying data to justify Blue Alert activation. For instance, there must be sufficient descriptive data on the suspect and/or suspect's vehicle for the public to be on the lookout for something. It does no good to activate an Blue Alert if sufficient information can't be provided to the public.

Blue Alert Steps

Step 1: Investigate Case

When a law enforcement agency head requests a Blue Alert, the respective law enforcement agency must first investigate the case and determine if the criteria warrants a request for an alert. According to North Carolina law, NC G.S. 143B–1023, a Blue Alert can only be issued if all of the following criteria are met:

  • A law enforcement officer is killed or suffers serious bodily injury. Under NC G.S. 14–32.4(a), serious bodily injury is defined as bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or that causes serious permanent disfigurement, coma, a permanent or protracted condition that causes extreme pain, or permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or that results in prolonged hospitalization.
  • A law enforcement agency with jurisdiction determines that the suspect poses a threat to the public and other law enforcement personnel and possesses information that may assist in locating the suspect, including information regarding the suspect's vehicle, complete or partial license plate information, and a detailed description of the suspect, or that a law enforcement officer is missing while on duty under circumstances warranting concern for the law enforcement officer's safety.
  • The head of a law enforcement agency with jurisdiction recommends the issuance of a blue alert to the Center.

Step 2: Submit Request

After completing the investigation and determining the case meets the qualifying criteria, the head of the law enforcement agency can submit an online request or fill out the fax request form. The law enforcement agency must have sufficient information such as suspect's vehicle, complete or partial license plate information, and a detailed description of the suspect, or that a law enforcement officer is missing while on duty under circumstances warranting concern for the law enforcement officer's safety. Please call the NC Center for Missing Persons (an agency within the Department of Public Safety) at 1-800-522-5437 if you have any questions.

Step 3: Blue Alert Issued

The NC Missing Persons Center contacts the State Highway Patrol Troop C Communication Center in Raleigh with instructions to issue an Emergency Alert System (EAS) message. The EAS message is technically "THE" Blue Alert. Through the EAS System, television and radio stations receive the tone signal that indicates an emergency message will follow. Descriptive information about the suspect will be announced in a pre-recorded message or displayed as a crawl message across the bottom of the television screen. In addition, NCDOT will activate the electronic message signs on the highways. The Blue Alert will be active for a period of 24-hours.

Once this period has expired, the alert may be extended for an additional 24-hour period at the request of the agency head involved after review once again by the NC Center for Missing Persons.

In addition, the requesting law enforcement agency must perform the following:

  • Enter information into the National Criminal Information Center system.

  • Initiate a statewide " Be On the Look Out" (BOLO) bulletin to all appropriate law enforcement agencies.

  • Provide a 24-hour phone number to receive calls during the investigation.

The NC Center for Missing Persons also:

  • Contacts NCDOT to activate the electronic message signs on the highways. Signs will include vehicle make, model and license plate with "Call *HP if seen".

  • Contacts the NC Education Lottery to activate messages on lottery terminals.

  • Enters information that simultaneously updates the NCPDS.gov website and notifies appropriate media and other key personnel.

  • Contacts contiguous states, if warranted.