Local Abduction Calls Attention to AMBER Alert Program


On Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, 15-year-old Mikella Debina was kidnapped at knifepoint from Anaehoʻomalu Bay on Hawaiʻi Island.

Recently released court documents shared the events between her abduction on Friday and her rescue from Café Pesto the following Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. Statewide attention of Debina’s abduction following the two AMBER Alerts issued to Hawaiʻi residents highlights the alert program.

The AMBER Alert program, which stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response,” was created following the 1996 abduction and murder of Amber Hagerman in Texas. Subsequently, Hawaiʻi became the final state to adopt the AMBER Alert program in 2005, designating the alert the MAILE AMBER Alert, in remembrance of Maile Gilbert, who was kidnapped and murdered at 6-years-old. The Hawaiʻi system has issued alerts for two missing children, including Debina, since its debut. In 2012, the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system, which broadcasts emergency messages to mobile devices, was launched, and began issuing AMBER Alerts the following year.

Hawaiʻi’s Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division states on their website, “the goal of the MAILE AMBER Alert is to recover abducted children before they meet physical harm by instantly galvanizing the entire community to assist in both the search for and safe return of the child.” The alert has certainly proven beneficial, with 1,114 children nationwide successfully recovered through the system and 123 rescued due to WEAs as of May 1, 2022, according to the United States Department of Justice’s website.

If you did not receive an alert for Debina’s abduction, the Federal Communications Division recommends checking your cell carrier to determine whether you have emergency alerts turned on or checking that your phone is WEA-capable and receiving service from a carrier’s cell tower that participates in WEAs. These emergency messages are dependent on the cell tower your phone is connected to, so if you are in range and your phone’s settings are compatible with the WEA system, you should be receiving them. If any related problems continue, you may contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1–800–843–5678 with your questions or concerns.