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Texans are familiar with Amber and Silver Alerts. But what is a Blue Alert?

A Dallas Police Department car parked on the side of the street.
Tony Gutierrez
Associated Press

It’s a situation most Texans have found themselves in: Waiting in line at the grocery store or trying to get their kids to bed when, suddenly, their phones vibrate and a siren-like sound emanates from the speakers.

Most often, it’s an AMBER Alert. That nationwide system that informs people about an abducted child and encourages them to be on the lookout for what’s described in the notification.

But late Wednesday and early Thursday, residents in parts of the state received the lesser-known Blue Alert. Blue Alerts are triggered after a law enforcement officer is harmed or fatally wounded and officials want the public’s help to apprehend the suspect or suspects. At least 37 states use the Blue Alert system, accordingto the U.S. Department of Justice.

This week’s alert came after Joseph Anderson, a deputy from the Harris County Sheriff's Office, was shot during a Wednesday traffic stop. The alert provided information to the public about the suspects; 34-year-old Terran Green and his brother, 37-year-old James Green.

On Thursday, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a social media post that Anderson underwent surgery and is in “critical but stable condition and is improving,” Houston Public Media reported.

One of the suspects, James Green, has been arrested. His alleged co-conspirator is still at large.

What is a Blue Alert?

Texas Blue Alerts were created in 2008 after former Gov. Rick Perry signed an executive order establishing the program. They are “designed to speed in the apprehension of violent criminals who kill or seriously wound local, state, or federal law enforcement officers,” according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. “During a Blue Alert, the public receives information regarding the suspected assailant, facilitating tips and leads to law enforcement.”

In order for an alert to be sent to the public, the following conditions must be met: a peace officer must be killed or seriously injured; the alleged offender is considered a threat to the public; the local agency investigating the crime must ask the DPS to issue the alert; and the suspect’s vehicle description and other identifying information is known.

The AMBER and Blue Alerts are just two of eight such alerts in place and designed to warn the public about an at-risk situation or missing persons. They include: Silver Alerts, which let the public know a senior citizen with a known mental-health condition is missing; Endangered Missing Persons Alert, which alerts the public when a person with an intellectual disability has been reported missing; a Camo Alert, which informs the public about a missing person who has or currently serves in the U.S. military; a CLEAR (Coordinated Law Enforcement Adult Rescue) Alert, which alerts the public to missing persons that are between 18 and 64 and believed to have been abducted and are in immediate danger; a Texas Power Outage Alert, which notifies broadcasters in Texas to the possibility that demand on the state’s power grids could exceed supply; and the Active Shooter Alert, which alerts Texans “in close proximity of active shooter situations through their cellular devices, local broadcast media, Texas Department of Transportation Dynamic Message Signs” according to the DPS.

Each alert has its own criteria that must be met in an effort to prevent desensitization, the Texas DPS explains on its website.

“Only a law enforcement agency or authorized entity can make a request to activate the State Network,” the agency states.
Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Julián Aguilar | The Texas Newsroom
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