Today, AMBER Alert Europe and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children hosted a webinar on risk assessment. Over 110 members of law enforcement agencies and non-profit organisations in the field of missing persons from 20 countries attended the webinar.

The webinar was held by Mr. Charlie Hedges, renowned UK specialist in the field of missing children and European Training Coordinator of the Police Expert Network on Missing Persons (PEN-MP) and AMBER Alert Europe.

Risk and the investigative process

When a missing child is reported to the police, law enforcement agencies should make a timely assessment to qualify or disqualify risk for the life or well-being of the missing child. This risk assessment is crucial in order to determine which steps need to be taken to successfully recover the child. For instance, police can decide to issue a national AMBER Alert to involve citizens in the search.

“An early assessment of a missing child can be compared to the triage used in assessing casualties and the speed of response needed to save lives”, says Hedges.

“Core to this process is assessing the level of risk to the missing person and how immediate that risk is. This assessment and the particular circumstances of the case should shape the response. Under-reaction can result in serious harm or death to the child. Over-reaction and doing too much is wasteful of resources and potentially an unwarranted intrusion on a child’s privacy.”

“Questions such as ‘Does their age make them particularly vulnerable?’, ‘Is their behaviour out of character?’, ‘Do they suffer from a life-threatening illness or require medication?’ or ‘Are there adverse weather conditions likely to put them at risk?’, among others, all determine the level of risk a missing child is in”, according to Hedges.

Second webinar

The webinar followed an initial risk assessment webinar held on June 23rd. This webinar, which was organised in collaboration with the Police Expert Network on Missing Persons (PEN-MP), was only open to law enforcement experts in the field of missing persons. More than 50 police experts participated in the initial session.