By Nomali Cele
On 30 January 2020, Facebook and the South African Police Service (SAPS) announced that they’d joined forces to create an Amber Alert initiative for missing children.
When a child goes missing, where does one even begin looking? For the parents and community around the child, it becomes imperative to begin searching for them as quickly as possible. According to Missing Children South Africa, the first 24 hours after a person goes missing are the most crucial to finding them. This is why they advise that parents and guardians don’t wait 24 hours
In recent years, children have been increasingly endangered with a few of the stories ending up in tragedy. Galvanising different communities to come together to help look for children taken from them is one way to fight back at the scourge. The missing children Amber Alert from Facebook will aid in this.
Said Facebook Director of Trust and Safety, Emily Vacher, “When a child is missing, the most valuable thing one can do is share information as quickly as possible. By working with law enforcement in helping to share the right information with the right people, we hope that missing children will be safely reunited with their families faster.”
Amber Alerts were popularised in America, to help gather momentum when looking for a missing child. With the SAPS Facebook amber alert, local authorities are hoping to do the same. This function will apply to cases where abduction is suspected.
Current SAPS Facebook Amber Alert criteria:
The abduction is of a child age 17 or younger;
There is a reasonable belief that the child has been abducted
The South African Police Service believes the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm.
There is enough descriptive information about the victim and suspected abduction for law enforcement to issue an Amber Alert to assist in recovering the child
The criteria are the conditions that have to meet before the SAPS Facebook Amber Alert is issued. Once verified, the police have to notify Facebook’s Global Security Operations Centre that a verified Amber Alert is active. South Africa is the first African country to get the Facebook amber alert functionality and joins 23 countries globally.
Commenting at the launch, General Khehla Sitole, the National Police Commissioner said, “We are implementing a strong partnership which will assist with SAPS in improving our response time, to enable us to find and safely recover vulnerable missing, abducted or kidnapped children through one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, Facebook.”