Kidnappers sometimes get head starts on law enforcement because their victims are suspected to have been runaways. That may have been true in the case of Skylar Neese.
Then 16, Neese left her parents' Monongalia County apartment one night last July. When she didn't return, her worried parents called the authorities.
A mechanism for enlisting the public's help in finding missing children exists. It is the Amber Alert program, through which information about disappearances can be made public quickly.
But when law enforcement officers believe teenagers have left home voluntarily, they usually are handled as runaways, not abduction victims. The Amber Alert system is not activated immediately.
Neese's body was found earlier this year in Pennsylvania. The details of what happened to her may never be known. Neither may it become clear whether an immediate Amber Alert could have saved her life.
West Virginia House of Delegates members seem to believe it might have made a difference - and that a change in the system could save young lives in the future. By a unanimous vote Wednesday, delegates approved a bill that would create Skylar's Law. It would require local law enforcement officers to report missing children immediately to the Amber Alert program. There, if it is determined foul play may be present, expeditious action would be taken.
Most missing teenagers indeed are runaways. It has been pointed out too many Amber Alerts could dull the public's sensitivity to them, with a resulting decrease in the program's effectiveness.
That certainly may be true. If Skylar's Law is enacted, the change should be monitored to ensure it does not become counterproductive. For now, however, state senators should follow the House's lead and approve the bill.