NJ officials announce Amber Alert changes

April 28, 2010 3:07:35 PM PDT
New Jersey is making changes to rules that have discouraged Amber Alerts in domestic cases. Even before the changes were announced, Attorney General Paula Dow answered the question everyone has been asking.

"We believe in this case it is unlikely that an amber alert could have saved baby Zara," Dow explained.

On February 16th, police say Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem attcked baby Zara's grandmother at their East Orange home, and snatched the little girl.

He then reportedly drove a short distance to the Driscoll Bridge and then did the unthinkable and threw her over the side of the bridge and into the icy water.

An amber alert was never issued in part because in the past, some family abductions were not alerted.

"The criteria established by the state were not clear enough regarding family abduction cases. Leading some to believe that amber alerts were not to be issued in family abduction cases," said Dow.

But that's not the case anymore.

Now, there is an abducted child alert reporting form that all local and state police are required to go by.

It asks questions like "does the child know abductor?" or "is there a custody issue?" and "is there a restraining order in place?".

All of those questions relate to domestic cases.

Since 2004, New Jersey has issued 13 amber alerts, 7 of which were domestic cases.

Baby Zara's grandmother, who was attacked the night she was taken, didn't want to talk on camera.

But, she did talk to Eyewitness News as she was getting in her car.

We asked her if she had heard about the changes to the amber alert system.

She said she had and they might help someone else's grand daughter, but said "it's too late for hers."

Just this past Saturday, a baby's body was found a few miles from the Driscoll Bridge.

The attorney general believes it is the body of baby Zara.

The baby's official cause of death is listed as drowning, leading investigators to believe she was alive when she went into the water.

Her father now sits in jail, charged with her murder.

The new policy also includes training for police and 911 operators, so they know how to ask the right questions when an abduction is reported.