Images of suspected child abductors and missing children may be flashed up on social networking and media sites as part of a new emergency child rescue system.
The system was launched yesterday by the gardaí and will be operated in conjunction with transport, health and local authority agencies, as well as the media.
Child Rescue Ireland Alert, or CRI Alert, is designed to help gardaí locate an abducted child where there is serious concern for the child’s safety.
There were 13 child abductions in Ireland in 2011, 20 in 2010, and 14 in 2009. While there was a total of 6,415 reports of missing children in 2011, the vast majority turned up safe within days, while 12 remain missing.
“A CRI Alert will only be initiated when there is a reasonable belief that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health and welfare of an abducted child,” said Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
He said gardaí must also have sufficient information to enable the public to assist gardaí in locating the child.
An alert will go up on electronic signs operated by the National Roads Authority, Irish Rail, Bus Éireann, and Dublin City Council. The HSE is also involved. Press alerts will go on radio, broadcast and print media and social networking sites.
The information may contain descriptions and photographs of the missing child, as well as of the suspected abductor and of the suspected vehicle involved.
Commissioner Callinan said the first few hours in abductions — like other serious crimes — were “very important in the success or otherwise of an operation”. He said he hoped the system would save lives.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter praised transition year students of Davis College, Mallow, Co Cork, who attended the launch at Garda HQ.
They recently won an award for their Forget Me Not campaign which raised awareness of missing persons.
Alice Cairns, whose 13-year-old son Philip vanished in Dublin in 1986, said a similar system may have recovered the schoolboy. “Perhaps it would have, especially if his picture was out.”
Philip went missing on his way back to school after having lunch in his home in Rathfarnham, on Oct 23, 1986.
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