POLICE will unveil a new nationwide alert system for enlisting
the public to help them rescue abducted children next month. Liverpool-born
and her husband Gerry
have campaigned for such a system to be
introduced since their daughter
disappeared in Portugal in May 2007.
They emphasised how the first hours after an abduction are
crucial and that an alert would spread information more quickly.
Officials have been working behind the scenes for months to iron
out bureaucratic hurdles to broadcasting sensitive information.
The new network, comparable to the amber alert system in the
United States, will be compatible with other European countries for the
As a result a continent-wide alert could be issued in
circumstances where youngsters may be taken across national borders.
Although some 100,000 children are reported missing to police
each year, senior officers expect the national alert to be used
The upgraded child rescue alert system will use new computer
software to handle the anticipated deluge of calls from concerned
members of the public. Similar alerts in France provoked 600 calls
within the first three hours, leaving investigators struggling to
Regional and national television and radio stations will
broadcast messages, in some cases interrupting scheduled programmes.
Those behind the system also hope to eventually use internet and text
messaging as well as motorway information signs.
The system is being coordinated by the National Police
Improvement Agency (NPIA) and any national abduction will be led by
Greater Manchester Police. Chief Constable Peter Neyroud, who heads the
NPIA, said the new alert will be launched on May 25,
Missing Children’s Day.
He said: “Child Rescue Alert is a powerful tool in the fight
against child abduction in the UK. About 100,000 children are reported
missing to police each year. Many are quickly reunited with their
families, but only a very small number are abducted.
By establishing a powerful partnership between the police, media and the
public, Child Rescue Alert allows information about the child and the
suspect to be shared in just a few hours of a disappearance when the
criteria for such an alert are met. These are often the vital hours
which could literally mean the difference between life and death.
“Child Rescue Alert is not expected to be used often, as strict
criteria must be met, but it is a valuable tool available to a senior
investigator to be used in the right situations.
“We plan to increase public awareness about the scheme in the
coming months so people understand how it works and what to do in the
event an alert is launched.”
Work on the improved system began after the NPIA won a share of
one million euros (£886,000) from the European Commission alongside
France, Holland and Belgium. Portugal, Spain and the Czech Republic have
already introduced their versions of child abduction alerts that link
with the European network.
The previous national alert system was established in 2006 and has only
been used on a handful of occasions.
They included an incident when a six-year-old girl was found
under a bed after being missed in a search and a child left strapped
into a car stolen by thieves.
Investigators believe about 700 child abductions are reported
each year, the vast majority of which involve the break-up of their
The rescue alert will be used alongside low-profile techniques
such as studying CCTV, checking financial records and tracking mobile
An alert can only be issued when the child is aged under 18,
there is a reasonable belief he or she has been abducted and could be in
The message will include a description of the child, the location
and nature of offences and description of the suspect and any vehicle
they are using.