The girl's legal guardian called police on Sunday and reported the girl missing, and police notified the media Tuesday afternoon.
Police originally believed the girl was a runaway and classified it as such, but with felony charges pending against several people in this case, Project Lighthouse Director David Palinsky says the Amber Alert system should have been used.
"I was kind of surprised right off the bat that they didn't go ahead and issue the alert," says Palinsky.
On a daily basis, Palinsky looks after young runaways who have nowhere to turn. He says the fact the girl was 12 should have risen a red flag to authorities.
"Especially with a child of that age being out there at 12 years old, go ahead and alert on the front end. If you didn't need it, it's better to get that out there and retract the alert afterward when you find out what the details are about the situation. Better to be safe than sorry."
Horry County police said the girl's disappearance did not fit the criteria for an Amber Alert. An Amber Alert is issued if a child is known to have been abducted or is under 17 and believed to be in danger of great bodily harm or death. To review the entire guidelines for the Amber Alert Criteria click here.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is the agency responsible for sending out Amber Alerts when they are contacted by police.
"All of this criteria has to be met. We have to make sure the program is protected for it to be beneficial," says SLED spokesperson Kathryn Richardson. "If the public becomes desensitize, then it's not going to be beneficial for anybody." She says the state division abides by the rules issued by the federal government.
Palinsky understands the system must have guidelines, but believes more should have been done faster to protect and find the girl.
"You don't want the cry wolf scenario, but she's 12. She's not 16,17, or 18 years old that kind of thing," says Palinsky. "I would think in something along those lines, you would go ahead and issue that alert."