The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern, TD, has given the go-ahead for the establishment of an "amber alert" system for missing persons.
The Minister made his pledge while welcoming the Garda Síochána Inspectorate’s recommendations on the handling of missing persons cases. One of the key recommendations from the Inspectorate is that an emergency alert system for missing children, similar to the "Amber Alert" in place in other countries, should be established.
The Inspectorate report has found overall that Garda systems for handling missing persons cases are in line with international best practice and has made recommendations on how those systems can be further enhanced.
Speaking as the report was published, the Minister said: "It is heartbreaking when a person, and particularly a child, goes missing. Families and friends suffer immeasurable distress. We must do all we can to help locate that missing loved one."
"I welcome the Inspectorate’s recommendation to establish an alert system for missing children. This will be a challenging task and it will require the support of a whole range of governmental agencies, NGOs, the media as well as the support of the public. I am confident that the Garda Síochána will receive the necessary support from all concerned to put an alert system in place."
The report is available on the Garda Síochána Inspectorate website www.gsinsp.ie
15 April 2009
Note for Editors
The Programme for Government contains a commitment to task the Garda Inspectorate with assessing the need to establish a dedicated Missing Persons Unit, including a response network similar to ‘Amber Alert’ in the USA. Accordingly, in July 2008, the Inspectorate was requested to examine: current practice regarding missing persons; alert systems in other jurisdictions; international mechanisms; and arrangements for dealing with missing children.
The Inspectorate is of the view that the Garda Síochána system of having a central missing persons bureau to co-ordinate policies and procedures while devolving operational responsibility for individual cases to Districts should continue. It recommends that this approach be further enhanced by the designation of personnel in each District to be responsible for missing persons cases and by supplementing the resources of the central Garda Missing Persons Bureau with a limited number of additional staff.
The Amber Alert System began in the United States in 1996 when broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. AMBER stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was created as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington Texas.
"Amber Alert" type systems are deployed in the relatively rare cases where it is believed that: a child has been kidnapped; the child is at imminent risk of serious injury or death; there is sufficient information to describe the child, and the circumstances of the disappearance are such that an alert can useful. A key component of an alert system is the ability to rapidly communicate a message through television, radio, at airports and ports, and via text and email. Another is a well resourced and trained call centre to receive public calls and then track and forward leads to investigating police. The Inspectorate recommends the establishment of such an alert system based on strict criteria. They also recommend that the system should include provisions for international co-operation. It notes that this will require the support and participation of a number of governmental and non-governmental agencies including the media.