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‘Emmett Till Alerts’ go live in Maryland

Civil rights leader Carl Snowden at the announcement of the “Emmett Till Alert” system in Anne Arundel County. WTOP photo by John Domen.

By John Domen

Following a spike in hate crimes and other incidents targeting minorities and their places of worship, a new alert system led by civil rights leaders in Maryland has gone live.

The new system is called Emmett Till Alerts, and it was announced inside a church that’s been attacked twice this summer by someone who left racist graffiti on the outside of the building.

“We have to take hate crimes, terrorist threats, seriously,” said Carl Snowden, a civil rights leader in Anne Arundel County.

“Today is a good day,” said Bishop Antonio Palmer, who leads Kingdom Celebration Center in Gambrills, where the announcement was made. He’s also the president of the United Black Clergy in Maryland. “We have a long way to go. This also proves to us that we have to protect ourselves.”

These alerts, similar to the Amber Alert system, will focus on hate crimes.

“Every member of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus… will be advised whenever there’s a hate crime anywhere in the state of Maryland,” Snowden said.

Other Black elected leaders around the state will also be invited to join the network of alerts, as will leaders in national civil rights organizations and Black clergy leaders. For now, it’s invite-only, but Snowden said he expects the system will be expanded in the future.

“If we have an incident that has occurred and we’ve alerted all of the leadership throughout the state of Maryland, we’ll have the ability to be able to have a rapid response” and brainstorm the right response, Snowden said.

Unlike Amber Alerts, these alerts are by invite only — for now, at least.

“We’re just beginning. We’re going to see how the system works,” Snowden said. “I suspect what you’ll find is this is going to be replicated nationally very, very quickly.

“So as we go forward with this particular process, getting input from a lot of people, it probably will get expanded,” he added.

Those who receive the alerts will see them characterized in three ways: Level 1, 2, and 3 alerts. Snowden said a Level 3 alert goes out for incidents that could result in violence or death. A lower level incident would include vandalism or property damage that doesn’t result in injury.

“I think it will be helpful to the community, and ultimately to law enforcement because if the community is aware of it, it can look out for things in their community and neighborhood and then report back if they know that something is going on,” said Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess, who attended the announcement. “An informed community is going to help the police solve crime.”

As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from John Domen. Click here for the WTOP News website.