Legislation introduced by Assemblywomen Pamela R. Lampitt and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to facilitate the immediate circulation of information about missing persons with developmental disabilities was passed by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
The bill (A-2709) would establish the Gold Alert system, a cooperative effort between law enforcement agencies and media outlets to broadcast emergency alerts about missing persons with developmental disabilities. The alerts would include physical descriptions and other pertinent details.
"This legislation reflects our collective duty to protect some of the most vulnerable New Jersey residents," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "We must do all we can to ensure missing individuals can return home safe and sound, especially when we have all the necessary resources already in place."
"When it comes to recovering a person who's gone missing, we know that time is of the essence and knowledge is power," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "By creating widespread awareness as soon as possible, we can maximize the likelihood that a missing person will be found alive and unharmed."
Under the legislation, a Gold Alert would be activated when a local law enforcement agency receives a missing persons report for an individual with a developmental disability. The State Police would aid in the investigation of the alert upon request from the local agency. In cooperation with law enforcement, participating media covering the missing person's broadcast service region would transmit the alert to the public.
The legislation bears similarity to the Amber Alert and Silver Alert systems, which are designated to help locate abducted children and lost individuals with dementia or other cognitive impairments, respectively.
The bill was released by the Assembly Human Services Committee.