On Saturday, November 3, 2012, from 6:30 to 10:00pm, the Davis County Chamber of Commerce???¦??s Women in Business (WIB) Committee will host its annual ???¦?Come As You Aren???¦??t???¦? Hoedown (photo 1), a western-dress party and fundraiser at the Davis Conference Center to benefit the Amber Alert program. Here is a
short KUTV video of Elizabeth Smart speaking about the Amber Alert program from last year???¦??s fundraiser.
As part of this year???¦??s event, Ed Smart (photo 2)–Elizabeth???¦??s father and Vice President of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation (Elizabeth is President)–spoke at a luncheon last Thursday, October 11, 2012, for the WIB Committee and guests (photo 3). The luncheon was hosted by Committee Chair Ginger Chinn of DATC (photo 4). Ed was introduced by Elaine Runyan Simmons (photo 5), whose 3-year-old daughter Rachael???¦??s body was found after she was presumably abducted. Runyan-Simmons said, ???¦?I wish the Amber Alert system had been around back then. We didn???¦??t have that.???¦? She speculated that Rachael might have been found alive.
Ed presented a very sobering, detailed timeline of the events of June 5, 2002, the night then-14-year-old Elizabeth was abducted from her home by Brian David Mitchell, and the events of the subsequent days and months of searching for her. It was especially sobering to learn that the body of a child had been found in Colorado the very day of the luncheon (October 11, 2012). This is, after all, about children being kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered. It is not trivial.
Here are some of Ed Smart???¦??s points that explain the Smarts???¦?? ongoing support of the Amber Alert program:
1) The Amber Alert program kept many people in Utah on the lookout for Elizabeth, eventually resulting in her being found. ???¦?Amber Alert is the first line of defense in finding a child???¦?, Ed said. According to news sources, Amber Alert has been credited with helping to find at least 16 children in Utah alone.
2) If a child is taken across state lines, it???¦??s like he or she has dropped off the face of the earth. A federal Amber Alert system is needed–with federal funding. The Amber Alert program currently runs on private donations.
3) While law enforcement worked hard to find Elizabeth and the family was extremely grateful for law enforcement efforts, there were flaws and inefficiencies in the process that slowed down the work of finding her.
4) Law enforcement agencies did not communicate with each other. Ed Smart often found himself in the role of updating all the agencies so they would all have the latest information on the case. An FBI agent remarked that it was the best he???¦??d ever seen the FBI be able to work with local police. Smart said, ???¦?Wow, if that was the best it has ever been, we have a real problem.???¦?
5) Ed was profoundly disappointed when he learned (later on) that at one point, help was offered by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children–experts on Amber Alert and on finding abducted children. The Center was told that their help was not needed, that law enforcement had everything under control. Ed said, ???¦?Nobody had anything under control; control was the last thing they had.???¦?
He wondered if Elizabeth might have been found sooner had the Center???¦??s help been accepted. The Center would also have had valuable advice; they would have known likely known what Elizabeth and the Smart family???¦??s rights were with regard to interrogation and debriefing after she was found, for example.
Ed is usually friendly, professional and polite, but he got very upset when law enforcement immediately tried to take Elizabeth off to be interrogated (which he had experienced firsthand) without her parent(s) present and before she could reunite with family members. Her mother, Lois Smart, was ultimately allowed to view the interrogation from a separate room.
6) Even though federal funding for the Amber Alert should be a ???¦?no brainer???¦? to help keep our nation???¦??s children from being murdered, the political process in Washington has held it hostage. Upon learning that a particular politician was deliberately blocking the funding, Ed got upset again and called him out in the media saying ???¦?the blood of our children will be on (the politician)???¦??s head.???¦? TV talk show host Sean Hannity called Ed and said, ???¦?You don???¦??t know what you???¦??ve done–what he (the politician) has been through.???¦? Ed responded that he knew what his daughter had been through and no child deserved that.
Over 2,200 people in the local community actively helped look for Elizabeth in a single day. There were over 8,115 registered volunteers and 877 searches nationwide, covering 4,000 square miles on the ground and 40,000 miles by air, with about 15 people per search team on average. Trained K-9 dogs were given some of Elizabeth???¦??s personal items but they lost the scent as soon as they went higher than one street above the Smart residence.
After Elizabeth was found, the world learned that Mitchell (along with accomplice Wanda Barzee) had held her in a camp high up in the hills, far above the Smart???¦??s neighborhood for about three months before moving her. Details will be omitted here, but suffice it to say that in the ???¦?high camp???¦?, she suffered greatly, was abused, slept in a tent and was cabled to nearby trees, sometimes with a knife to her throat to prevent her escape–and always with the threat that her family would be killed.
Interestingly, as a by-product of the search for Elizabeth, four meth labs were discovered and ???¦?busted???¦?, there were 50 unrelated arrests and over 100 unrelated cases were solved.
Smart made a very strong case for Amber Alert. He also spoke briefly on the radKIDS training program supported by the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which teaches elementary-school-age children many kinds of safety, including abduction resistance. While nobody knows whether or not the training would have kept Elizabeth from being abducted by Mitchell, radKIDS could conceivably prevent a kidnapping from happening in the first place.