Tow truck operators to transmit Amber Alerts in Northern California, Nevada and Utah
More than 1,000 tow truck drivers will be on the lookout for abducted children as part of a new partnership between CSAA and the California Highway Patrol, thanks to the suggestions of two contract station employees and club employees in Petaluma and Rancho Cordova.
Effective immediately, CSAA will transmit Amber Alerts to the club's vast network of tow truck and service contractors. The partnership is ideal because CSAA's highly recognized yellow trucks -are dispatched around the clock and have a high presence on freeways and city streets, says Dave Whitgob of membership product management. As part of their jobs, drivers are already trained to locate specific vehicles.
In July, the CHP began the statewide child abduction network-known as Amber Alert by broadcasting alerts to local media and electronic highway signs when a child is reported missing. Since its implementation, California's Amber Alert system has helped recover 18 abducted children.
CSAA became involved after suggestions from Ralph Hoover, a contract station tow manager with Ted & Al's Towing in San Francisco and Lou Jaime, a tow truck driver with Wiler's Tow in Vallejo. Hoover says he came up with the idea when it occurred to him that electronic highway signs are generally only on major freeways and not on back roads. "The first thing that crossed my mind," Hoover says, "was if I'm a bad guy, where would I go? Off the freeway. Who is on those back roads as much as anyone else? Tow truck drivers." I thought if nothing else, if they could find one kid it would be worth all the effort."
Once the CHP issues an Amber Alert, CSAA's member service center in Livermore transmits a text message to drivers via the digital network that's used to dispatch calls. Messages may include the vehicle's make, model, color and license plate number and a description of the abducted child. Drivers who spot a vehicle relay the information back to the dispatch center, which immediately informs the CHP. "It's a great additional set of eyes for us," says CHP Officer Herman Quon. "We already work closely with AAA tow truck drivers. This is just an extension of that."