LOS ANGELES – Officials credited a recently adopted child abduction alert system with the safe rescue Thursday of two Lancaster girls.
Thursday marked the first use of the Amber alert system since it was implemented statewide just six days ago by Gov. Gray Davis.
It previously had been used in California only at local levels, including during the kidnapping of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion in Orange County last month.
The alert was issued within four hours after Roy Dean Ratliff kidnapped Tamara Brooks, 16, and Jacqueline Marris, 17, at gunpoint early Thursday.
The alert included the names of the girls and the license plate number of the stolen Ford Bronco that Ratliff used to abduct them.
The information was sent to all California law enforcement agencies and media outlets throughout the state. Caltrans flashed news of the abduction and a description of the Bronco on 316 electronic signs on freeways around the state.
“It worked like it should have — like a dream,” said Richard Westin, a deputy for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff’s deputies in Kern County said they got several calls from people who saw the Bronco. Among them was a state highway worker who spotted the vehicle after hearing the alert broadcast by a Los Angeles radio station, said California Highway Patrol spokesman Tom Marshall.
“By using this new system, we immediately pass on the information to the citizens,” said Sonia Parra, a sheriff’s deputy from Los Angeles County. “That contributed tremendously today to the response and positive results.”
Ratliff was shot and killed after the short chase ended in a crash. The girls were unharmed.