HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Maile Amber Alert system has been in place since 2005.

It has only been activated twice and certain criteria need to be in place before an alert can be issued.

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Maile Gilbert’s body was found buried at Kaena Point in 1985, the 6-year-old had been abducted from her Kailua home.

The Maile Amber Alert system is named in her memory — along with 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and killed in 1996 in Texas.

Hawaii Pacific University’s Criminal Justice Program chair and former Honolulu Police Detective Sheryl Sunia said Hawaii’s system localized a nationwide concern.

“And I think rightly so, because it gives a personal touch to local residents,” Sunia said, “that we care about our keiki and we want to bring them home safely.”

The Maile Amber Alert system was created in 2005. It can only be activated if the following criteria are met:

  • A child 17 years old or younger is abducted
  • There is information that the child is in immediate danger of bodily harm or death
  • A description of the abductor and/or abductor’s vehicle is available

“And since then, there’s only been — including this alert — two Maile Amber Alerts issued in the state of Hawaii, so this will be the second time that the alert was activated,” said Amanda Leonard, Hawaii’s Missing Child Center coordinator and branch chief.

The first activation was in 2005 and involved a 4-month-old baby in Nuuanu. The infant, in that case, was found safe and in light of Mikella Debina’s story, the system still has a 100% success rate.

“There’s no words to describe today’s recovery other than a miracle.”

Amanda Leonard, Hawaii’s Missing Child Center coordinator and branch chief

“The chances of recovering a child alive in a stranger abduction are very low,” Leonard said.

The system is a partnership between the State, the four County police departments and other agencies. It can be activated across all the main Hawaiian Islands.

“Because there are so many modalities and different methods that people can use to get people off the island,” Sunia said.

Sunia said stories like Mikella’s show just how much Hawaii cares for its keiki and the importance of staying alert.

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“In Hawaii, we value our keiki,” Sunia said. “Even if it’s a little bit of information, don’t think that that information is not important. You need to contact somebody and let them know what you know.”