A vague Amber Alert issued Wednesday evening frustrated some Utahns who wanted to know more information about a missing child — but were instead met with a busy signal.
Late Wednesday evening, Utahns received an emergency notification to their cellphones telling them of the alert. It only read “Dial 511 for more information.”
The alert didn’t say who was missing — in this case, a 3-week-old baby believed to have been abducted by her non-custodial mother in Clinton. But when people called 511 for more information, many couldn’t connect.
“It just got overloaded,” said Utah Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Marissa Cote. “People were seeking the information and doing what the message prompted them to do. But not everyone was able to get through.”
This is the second time in the past few months where the state sent a vague Amber Alert. Cote said the department will review their processes to see how they can prevent confusion in the future.
“We’re questioning everything,” she said Thursday. “Commissioner [Jess] Anderson is asking a lot questions. He’s concerned. He’s frustrated too.”
Cote said that Wednesday's Amber Alert defaulted to "dial 511" because the police agency did not have a vehicle description listed. That phone number is generally used for traffic conditions, and could not handle the volume of calls.
Many Utahns expressed frustration on social media about not being able to get information when they called 511, worried that valuable time was being wasted if people didn't know who to look for.
In late September, another Amber Alert was also met with confusion. In that instance, residents received a text notification of an alert and then only “gry Toyt.”
Emails and other alerts explained police believed the biological parents had been suspected of abducting a child and may be traveling in a gray Toyota or Chevy Malibu. The description of the vehicle had been shortened by local police, Cote said, and was inadvertently sent out.
Though the issues in the two Amber Alerts weren't identical, Cote said DPS will be looking for ways to improve.
“We should be able to send out a correct, informative alert by now,” she said. “We are going to be questioning what’s the process and how we can refine it. Because at the other end of the alert, there is a child who needs our help.”
The most recent Amber Alert is still in effect as of 2 p.m. Thursday. Police are looking for 3-week-old Audrey Westfall, who weighs 10 pounds and has brown hair and blue eyes.
Officers believe she is being carried in a black-and-gray carseat with a pink-and-green quilted blanket.
The alert says police believe she was taken by her mother, Taylor Cheylene Webb, 25, around 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
Webb was last seen wearing a gray jacket, black yoga pants and black-and-white shoes. She has brown hair that’s typically in a bun, glasses and blue eyes. Police also say she has noticeable tattoos on her collarbone with the phrase “Exhale the negative” on the left side of her chest and “Inhale the positive” on the right.
The alert came from Davis County Sheriff’s Office. The mother may be headed through Utah to Nevada or California with the child, according to the alert.
Anyone with information is asked to call 801-451-4141.