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How FDOT helps law enforcement track amber alerts

Posted at 10:26 AM, Jan 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 10:26:00-05

The sound of an amber alert is something most of us have heard before, but have you ever wondered how law enforcement and other agencies are able to track down those wanted vehicles?

A behind-the-scenes look into the Traffic Management Center of the Southwest Florida Department of Transportation District one shows us what role FDOT plays in tracking amber and silver alerts.

The traffic management center (TMC) has over two hundred cameras on I-75, that span across twelve counties from the Collier-Broward County line to the Manatee-Hillsborough County line.

Zachary Burch, with the Florida Department of Transportation District One, says these cameras play a crucial role in helping law enforcement track down amber and silver alerts.

However, the primary purpose of TMC is for traffic management, such as wrecks and disabled vehicles.

"We can use the cameras to find and follow that vehicle until law enforcement is able to make contact with it,” said Burch.

When the traffic management center first receives an amber alert from the Florida Highway Department of Law enforcement, they immediately send out alert messages throughout the interstate — such as they did on Wednesday for the missing South Florida baby.

That baby, Andrew Caballeiro, remains missing after Miami-Dade deputies found three women dead inside a home. The baby's father, Ernest Caballeiro, was discovered dead in a van in Pasco County Thursday.

“You likely saw message board signs that there was an amber alert, for a white van, and we put the license plate out there, and certainly we were working with the staff here so if any tips came in,” said Burch.

Burch says he's unsure if any tips came in regarding this particular amber alert, but when someone does call in a tip to 911 or *FHP, operators can monitor the cameras for that wanted vehicle.

“[Operators] know the sequence the cameras come in so if we were able to locate a vehicle (...) and we know it’s going south, we can follow it from camera-to-camera until law enforcement can make contact with it,” said Burch, adding that they can also relay to law enforcement what exist a vehicle takes.

Brunch says the Traffic Management Center operates 24 hours 7days a week to help monitor one of the busiest roadways in Southwest Florida.