A child abduction alert system is to be set up inthe coming weeks followed soon after by a dedicated national helpline.
There have been more than 40,000 missing persons’ reports in the past five years, which gardaí estimate involve about 20,000 people (with some going missing several times).
While the vast majority turn up within 24 hours, 212 people — 114 of them children — are still unaccounted for. Over 90% of missing children were in the care of the State.
Speaking at a report on missing persons published by the Oireachtas justice committee yesterday, a senior garda said steps were being taken to implement key recommendations in the report.
Superintendent Fergus Healy, attached to crime and security in Garda HQ, said they were in the “very final stages” of setting up a national system, called the Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) alert.
“It is at an advanced stage and is with the [garda] commissioner at the moment. We hope to get approval by the end of the month and we will have a launch day then.”
He said it was based on the Amber Alert system, which is used in other countries, including the US.
Supt Healy said gardaí visited the US, Britain, and Belgium to examine the systems in those countries.
The CRI system will use a range of agencies — such as the media, mobile phone companies, and social networking sites — to put urgent alert messages out about child abductions and seek the public’s assistance.
“The system will create a network for the dissemination of information and seek the assistance of the public in child abduction cases,” said Supt Healy. “The aim is to get to as many people as quickly as possible.”
He said another key recommendation in the report — for a single national helpline with trained personnel — was also due to be set up soon.
Supt Healy said the ISPCC had been selected to run the 116000 helpline — which is used across many EU countries.
Funding will need to be secured by the agency from the European Commission.
Committee chairman David Stanton said families of missing people suffered “never-ending deep trauma, worry, and a sense of loss arising out of not knowing how or why a loved one has gone missing”.
He praised transition year students of Davis College in Mallow, Co Cork, who made a presentation to the committee and said they had taken on their two recommendations: For a national missing persons’ day and a place of remembrance for families of missing people.
Mr Stanton said the committee was concerned at the high number of children in care going missing and urged closer collaboration between the HSE, gardaí, and the Department of Justice.
Siobhán Murray, teacher at Davis College, thanked the committee for adopting their recommendations and said it was a great day not only for the students, but also the families of missing people.
* 20,000 people have gone missing over the last five years.
* 212 people are still missing — 140 male and 72 female.
* 114 are under 18 and 98 adults.
* 106 of 114 children are missing from state care.
* Vast majority of missing children are from Africa and Asia.
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