Many in the neighborhood where a Fort Worth girl was kidnapped two weeks ago still have safety concerns after problems surfaced during the search.
The 8-year-old girl was rescued hours after she was taken. However, Fort Worth police had problems issuing an Amber Alert. Forest Hill police admitted they were the first ones to confront the kidnapping suspect, Michael Webb, at his hotel room two hours before the girl was rescued, but they failed to save the girl.
The Monday event was put on by the neighborhood organization. City leaders have credited the neighborhood’s engagement with helping spread the word and lead police to eventually find the girl. But the residents also had some pointed questions about the process and whether this could be done better.
Much of the discussion Monday focused on how the Amber Alert was issued.
Fort Worth Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus and other city representatives were at the meeting to answer questions. The police department previously acknowledged that an issue with a fax machine was to blame for some of the broadcast alerts not going out. The department says they will now also email that over to the designated radio station that issues those alerts and follow up with calls.
“Just the fact that a fax machine was even mentioned caught a lot of people off guard given how antiquated that is,” said Tim Keith with the Ryan Place Improvement District. “So those are things we want to hear from city leaders about.”
“The Amber Alert plan itself is an unbelievably good plan, and it’s done a lot of things to save a lot of people whenever they’ve been abducted,” said Fort Worth Police Lt. Ward Robinson. “All we’re trying to do is get back in the 21st century with it and improve upon that system.”
One tough question from one of the audience members was focused on Forest Hill police. That department acknowledged its officers actually checked out a call and talked with the suspect just a couple hours before the missing 8-year-old was eventually found. They didn't find the girl or suspect's car during that search.
Forest Hill police have not said much about what went wrong. Fort Worth’s new interim police chief responded.
“I will tell you we are all concerned about that. And Chief Fitzgerald and Deputy Chief Kamper were both in touch with the Forest Hill police chief the next day,” Kraus said. “And I talked to him a couple of times since and we've been assured they are taking care of it internally. And that's something they are taking care of.”
Webb remains in custody. He is facing a federal kidnapping charge.
Police didn't say much more about the crime itself, but they did say the suspect was in the neighborhood for some time before the kidnapping. They also said the motive was not human trafficking.