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'Purple Alert': Local leaders, activists push for Wisconsin legislature to create alert system for missing domestic violence survivors

Posted at 3:56 PM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 19:30:22-04

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsinites have become familiar with Silver, Green and AMBER alerts, but there’s a push in Milwaukee for the state legislature to create a 'Purple Alert' to help find missing and endangered domestic violence survivors.

Carrie Scott-Haney knows the pain of losing a loved one to domestic violence. Her daughter, Audrey, went missing four years ago. She was found dead a couple months after her disappearance. Scott-Haney says she still wonders whether police could have done more.

“I knew Audrey was missing and they tell me, ‘well, she’s an adult, she can leave, she can take a break,’” Scott-Haney said.

While Audrey’s former partner is now behind bars serving life in prison, Scott-Haney says she’s still seeking justice by trying to make sure more resources are dedicated to helping find missing domestic violence survivors.

“I think that the Purple Alert will help other families have their children or their loved ones returned to them alive,” she said.

Scott-Haney’s push hit home for Milwaukee County Supervisor Sequanna Taylor, a domestic violence survivor herself.

“When we think about the AMBER Alert, the Silver Alert, these are alerts we put into the community as an emergency to let people know that something is wrong. However, with domestic violence, we had no such thing,” Supervisor Taylor told TMJ4 News.

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and Milwaukee’s Common Council have already offered unanimous support for the Purple Alert, but for it to make a difference, Taylor says it would have to become state law.

Supervisor Taylor wants the Wisconsin Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers to do just that. She says the Purple Alert would eliminate any waiting periods local police departments may have before launching an investigation. Taylor says it would also require notification to media statewide to broadcast that missing person’s picture and information.

“I believe that can be the difference in life or death,” Taylor said.

The Sojourner Family Peace Center says in 2020, there were 50 domestic violence-related homicides in Milwaukee County. That’s a 79 percent increase from 2019, and a 400 percent increase compared to 2018.

The Milwaukee Police Department’s standard operating procedure says the department does not have a waiting period for investigating missing persons reports, however Sgt. Efrain Cornejo said there can still be delays.

“With every missing investigation, we do have to verify the information that’s being provided to us,” he said. “We also have to conduct our own search, so just because there is no waiting period, there may be sometimes a delay as far as when a type of alert goes out.”

No other state has an alert system for missing domestic violence survivors, but supporters hope Wisconsin can lead the way, similar to how the state was the first to implement the Green Alert for missing veterans.

“I want to stop or help as many families from enduring the pain that me and my family have endured,” Scott-Haney said.

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