by Roger Jones
EVERY second counts – that’s the vital message from Warwickshire Police force, which hopes soon to join a Child Rescue Alert (CRA) project that is eventually likely to be rolled out nationwide, including in the West Midlands.
The partnership scheme involves newspapers, TV and radio outlets that would respond to reports of child abduction - where speed is of the essence - and hopefully get information from the public.
Key criteria that need to be fulfilled before an alert is issued are:
• The child is aged under 18 or considered vulnerable
• There is a reasonable belief that the child has been kidnapped or abducted and is in imminent danger of serious harm or death
• And there is enough information available to enable the public to assist police in finding the child (such as details of a vehicle or suspect etc)
Once a decision is taken to issue an alert, the media – particularly radio and TV - will be asked to broadcast an agreed message every 15 minutes for four hours, or until the alert is cancelled.
The message will be shown on an on-screen ‘banner’ – similar to those used by 24-hour news stations - as soon as possible and included in the next available news bulletin.
Newspapers would be informed by text, email and - or - telephone, depending on agreed procedure.
Launched in Texas in 1996 following the abduction of nine-year-old Amber Hangerman, who was later found murdered, the alert scheme has already been adopted by five UK police forces – Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Gloucestershire and Leicestershire.
Details for an anticipated launch in a few weeks are being finalised by Warwickshire Police.
Chief Constable John Burbeck told a press conference at force HQ on January 6: “We know it works well. It is very much about the police and the media working together in partnership in order to maximise the opportunity that we can recover a child.”
He said he hoped there would never be need to use child rescue alert locally “but it is much better to be prepared so that if the worse does happen we can very quickly put in place the necessary steps – and do our best to recover the child.”
Retired Derbyshire detective superintendent John Langley, the CRA’s national implementation manager who is working on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: “I am absolutely convinced that if we have a child abducted, we will significantly improve our chances of finding that child before harm comes to them.
“Sadly, we know the longer that a child is in the hands of an abductor, the greater the chance that that child will die.”
Mr Langley said the scheme was now used in all 50 American states, as well as in Canada, Sussex being the first UK force to adopt it in 2002.
“We hope we may never use it in Warwickshire, but we might. What we need to do is to make sure it works. We hope to implement it in the early part of this year.
“The aim is to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, our children. With your help we can make the streets safer places to be.”
For more information visit Childrescuealert.com