The city issued its first Amber Alert on Monday, and the nationwide notification went out to the public about two hours after police were first told a 4-year-old girl had been taken from her home.
"This was a new experience for us, and I felt it was done in a timely fashion," North Tonawanda Police Capt. Roger Zgolak said Tuesday. As soon as the Amber Alert was issued, "almost immediately the phones started ringing off the hook," he said.
The grandmother of 4-year-old Serenity Platts called police just before 8 p.m. Monday to report that David J. Grover, an acquaintence of the family, had taken the girl in his gray Acura.
Before law enforcement officials could issue the alert, police had to determine that Serenity had been abducted and was at risk, and compile a good description of the child, her captor and the vehicle, Zgolak said.
"This took some time," he said. "We established in our minds there was a possible danger because this gentleman did not have permission to take this person out of the house and although we had a cellular [number], he was not answering."
Zgolak issued the alert about two hours after the initial police report was taken, when attempts to find Grover through family and friends had failed.
At that point, a child-abduction message was entered into a statewide system that sends out notices to all law enforcement officials, and the news media were given descriptions of the girl and her abductor.
Shortly after 10 p.m., interstate highway signs were flashing with the alert, and drivers were asked to tune in to 1610 AM, which broadcast information about the car and descriptions of the girl and the suspect.
Television stations were scrolling descriptions of the car and abduction, and information was being reported on the radio. The Buffalo News posted an online article with the information on its Web site, www.buffalonews.com.
The Amber Alert had an inaccurate description of the girl's clothing because she changed into a ballerina outfit before leaving the house with Grover.
Grover brought Serenity back to her home about 12:15 a.m. Tuesday, and was caught by police after a brief car chase, but Zgolak pointed out that police received numerous tips in the two hours after the Amber Alert was issued.
"I can only assume that because of a combination of media coverage and the Amber Alert getting information out en masse, . . . it had to have a positive impact," Zgolak said.
News Niagara Bureau Reporter Nancy A. Fischer contributed to this report.