Colorado has launched a new alert system to help locate missing locals
After community members spent days searching for Wanblee Vigil in knee-deep snow and brush in Denver, Colorado, authorities launched a statewide alert Tuesday to help find the missing 27-year-old Lakota man.
Vigil’s disappearance is the first case to activate a new Missing Indigenous Person Alert (MIPA) in Colorado. The system was launched last week to address the crisis of missing indigenous peoples in the state. Colorado is one of several states that created similar alert systems last year amid a national crisis over missing and murdered Native Americans.
“This is necessary because we … as aboriginal people have been silenced for too long and abused and taken seriously for too long,” said Daisy Bluestar, a Southern Ute lawyer and member of the Colorado Task Force on Missing and Murdered Parents. . the main group that supported the creation of a new warning system.
Vigil was last seen leaving a Denver apartment building around 2 p.m. on Dec. 29 when he went missing on New Year’s Day, his aunt Jennifer Black Elk told CNN. According to the alert issued by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), he was wearing blue jeans and a black jacket with white stripes.
Black Elk said Vigil left his apartment after sharing “personal issues” and broke down the door. He initially thought Vigil had gone to pray because he appeared to be carrying a chanunpa, a ceremonial pipe, he said.
“He’s very funny. He’s very calm, easy-going and helpful, and he’s a good person on the inside,” Black Elk said of his nephew.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation launched a local missing persons alert system on December 30, 2022.
Its creation is the result of legislation passed last year to expand investigations into the cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people. Bluestar and other local advocates like him worked with state lawmakers to draft and pass Senate Bill 22-150, despite rejection by some state lawmakers and agencies. Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law last summer.
The legislation also required the state to establish a liaison office for missing and murdered indigenous people.
The alert system is designed to be activated when a local resident is reported missing to law enforcement. According to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, the law requires law enforcement agencies that receive a local missing person report to notify the CBI within eight hours of a missing adult report or two hours of a missing child report.
If a local child is abducted, a Yellow Alert will be sent to the phones of residents across the country, the CBI said. If an Aboriginal child is reported missing in circumstances other than abduction, an alert will be issued under the new system.
Once the alert is issued, local and state law enforcement agencies in Colorado will be notified, as well as the media and other interested parties, who may distribute the alert information via email or text message, the CBI said. . Unlike the Amber Alert, state investigators say the Local Missing Person Alert is not sent to cell phones.
“The CBI understands the importance and effectiveness of the various alerts in Colorado and we are pleased to be asked to develop this new alert in order to quickly locate and safely return missing local residents. the safety of their loved ones,” CBI director John Camper said in a statement.
As the search for Vigil continues, campaigners criticized the launch of a new alert system this week and said it could have been done sooner.
Vigil was reported missing Sunday, but a local missing person alert was not issued until Tuesday, Denver police said.
“We are losing valuable time trying to find this young man or find evidence of his whereabouts,” said Raven Payment, an Ojibwe and Kanienkehaka activist and member of the Native Parents of Missing and Murdered Task Force. from Colorado who joined the search. For Vigil.
When asked how long the missing person alert took, the Denver Police Department said its missing persons unit “went through the process of opening and reporting a missing person case.” .
Asked about the timing of the alert, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said it issued the alert when it received information from the Denver Police Department. “The Denver Police Department is responsible for this case because they filed the report and may have performed investigative duties prior to the alert request,” the CBI said.
“For us it was a success, a big success. But right now, you know, we’re at a stage where it still doesn’t seem important or urgent,” said Bluestar, another attorney.
Colorado is one of only three states with a missing person alert system. Last year, Washington became the first state to do so, and California sent out a feather alert to help find a missing local man under suspicious circumstances.
As of August 2022, there are 782 missing Americans nationally, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
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