Using technology to keep children safe

The initial hours after a child is abducted are crucial, and a sighting by a member of the public can make a vital contribution to the safe recovery of a child

A high-tech service is helping to revolutionise the way the public is alerted to missing or abducted children in the hours after they disappear. Using social media and partnerships with crime agencies, Child Rescue Alert is able to notify greater numbers of people than ever before about potentially at-risk youngsters and how the public can help in ongoing investigations.

Statistics show that the initial hours after a child is abducted are crucial, and a sighting by a member of the public can make a vital contribution to the safe recovery of a child. Child Rescue Alert can be applied anywhere in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland at local, regional or national levels. An Alert can be sent directly to individuals – for example by text message and email – and reach many more people through broadcast media such as television and digital billboards. Child Rescue Alert is managed by the charity Missing People, the National Crime Agency (through its CEOP Command) and its technology partner Groupcall.

The first enhanced Child Rescue Alert was issued in March this year for a 14 year old girl from Nottinghamshire. This was made possible thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund. The subject of the alert was later found safe and well.

In September, Missing People announced a new partnership between Child Rescue Alert and Facebook, harnessing the power of the social media giant’s community when a child’s life is believed to be at immediate risk. The partnership with Facebook is a game-changer for the Child Rescue Alert system: using the latest cutting edge technology, Facebook will target Child Rescue Alerts to all registered Facebook users in area from in which the child went missing and any areas it is thought the child might be. Alerts will be automated and appear as the second item in users’ newsfeeds.

November 2015 marks the first anniversary of the partnership between Missing People and Royal Mail. In addition to distributing weekly alerts for high-risk missing people through the hand-held scanners of postal workers across the UK, Royal Mail has announced it is contributing £50,000 to fund the Child Rescue Alert system in 2016. These funds will ensure the operation of a 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year system, for one year. The specific criteria and urgent nature of Child Rescue Alerts means that the charity’s expert helpline team must be trained and ready to issue an alert at any time.

It’s the kind of charity you hope you’ll never have to call upon, but if the worst happens, you’ll be glad this vital, innovative service is there for you.