The University of Portsmouth publishes a preliminary research on the usefulness of child alert systems in European countries. The study suggests that the use of child alert systems has the potential to safely recover missing children.

The study examines child alert systems in the UK, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Poland which issued 19 of the 23 alerts issued in Europe in 2015.

In addition to safely recovering the missing child, the report finds that child alert systems have other important benefits such as support the investigative process, improve the relationship between law enforcement and the child’s relatives, and meet public expectations.

The report was authored by missing persons expert Dr Karen Shalev Greene, Director of the Centre for the Study of Missing Persons at the University of Portsmouth, and Charlie Hedges, police specialist of AMBER Alert Europe, the European Child Rescue Alert and Police Network on Missing Children.

Dr. Shalev Greene: “This is a first of its kind study in the EU, it looks at how useful this system is. The media play an important role in distributing information to the public. We need to learn how to best use this powerful tool to make sure the child is found. This study will help inform discussions and provide better understanding of the consequences.”

The study also highlights the challenges child alert systems pose to law enforcement, for example by inundating police forces with offers from volunteers to join the search for the missing child. Mr. Charlie Hedges: “This first study and especially further research is crucial to understand the challenges of using child alert systems. The findings help organisations like AMBER Alert Europe and policy makers all over Europe to better support law enforcement in saving the lives of missing children.”

Child alert systems were created in the US, where they are called AMBER Alerts, following the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman in 1996. Similar systems now exist in many countries. 16 EU countries have an AMBER Alert systems. 8 EU countries have used their system at least once.

Read the full report