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Long Island

Missing children's center says it inadvertently sent out Amber Alert

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children sent the notification to mobile devices throughout the region early Wednesday, State Police said.

An inadvertent Amber Alert notification that woke up Long Island residents early Wednesday morning was sent without police authorization, State Police said.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children sent out the notification using the Wireless Emergency Alert system, forcing phones and other mobile devices to vibrate and issue a tone at about 5:40 a.m., State Police said. The message said only, "AMBER Alert check your local media."

Christine Barndt, a producer for the center, blamed the alert on the agency's "human error." She said an Amber Alert was sent out by the center early Wednesday morning for 11-year-old Ninssy Vasquez of Hempstead.

"The child is still missing, but there is no Amber Alert," Barndt said.

On Wednesday night, Nassau police said Ninssy had been located.

The Special Victims Unit of State Police, which activates Amber Alerts, said there are no active alerts and police had not requested the notification be sent out. 

"When we do an Amber Alert, we will notify the national center to send the WEA that you’ll get on your phone," said Beau Duffy, a State Police spokesman.

Joshua Kean, a senior investigator with the Special Victims Unit, said it is possible the notification reached residents throughout the metropolitan area. 

Kean said he has been in contact with the national center. "We are conducting an investigation to look into what happened,” he said.

Dozens of Long Island residents complained on social media about being startled by the loud notification in the early morning. More than 60 people posted on Twitter about the alert early Wednesday, many expressing their frustration at being woken up and then not finding further information online.

Nassau County police had issued a news release overnight about Ninssy, but the department said it did not ask for the Amber Alert to be issued about her disappearance. The girl had been reported missing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, police said in a news release sent at about 1 a.m. Wednesday. 

A State Police Missing Child Alert was also issued for Ninssy Vasquez at 4:16 a.m. Wednesday at the request of Nassau police, State Police said. Hempstead police said they had no further information.

Amber Alerts are a system for sending out urgent information about missing children believed to be in serious danger.

“Had it been truly authorized by the appropriate agency, region 11 would have been activated,” Kean said. That alert activation region, one of 12 in New York State, extends from Staten Island to western Suffolk County and north to parts of Putnam and Orange counties. It includes all of Nassau County and New York City.  

Earlier Wednesday, State Police had said the notification went only to Nassau County residents.

The state's Amber Alert system came under scrutiny last month when State Police chose not to issue the notification to motorists while Suffolk County police were looking for an armed Coram father and his toddler. John Ligurgo III and his son, Jovani, were later found dead in Virginia.

State Police said at the time that the information given to them didn’t meet the criteria for issuing an Amber Alert. Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) has proposed a commission to investigate the decision. Boyle's bill passed the Senate unanimously on June 20 but has yet to receive a vote in the Democratic-controlled State Assembly.

With Sabrina Escobar

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