Last week, over 50 police specialists on missing persons from 20 different countries attended the ‘European Police Expert Network on Missing Children’ Forum in Prague. Goal of the meeting was for law enforcement experts to meet their colleagues in neighbouring countries, exchange best practices and learn new techniques to save more missing children in Europe.
The three-day expert meeting was organised by the Czech presidency of the Network, in cooperation with AMBER Alert Europe. The Network is the only group in Europe that brings together law enforcement specialists on missing persons, and missing children specifically.
“Every endangered missing child deserves an equal chance to be found as quickly as possible, this must not be inhibited by them crossing borders,” says Frank Hoen, founder of AMBER Alert Europe. “When a child goes missing and support is needed from police specialists in other countries, the participants to our group now know who to call at 3 AM in the morning.”
Lessons learned from counterterrorism
During the event, special emphasis was given to innovative techniques that are used in the fight against terrorism. Big data specialists and profiling experts demonstrated how the latest techniques used in counterterrorism can also be used to find missing persons.
Training by Europol and Frontex
Special guests Wil van Gemert, Deputy Executive Director at Europol, and Duco van Heel, Anti-trafficking Coordinator at Frontex, attended the event to discuss trafficking and exploitation of (missing) children. They clearly demonstrated how the tools that Europol and Frontex are using in the battle against international human trafficking networks can be used by national law enforcement to better protect missing children.
New techniques to protect children at risk of going missing
Both Frontex and the French Judicial Police focussed on the use of new preventive alerts at EU borders. These alerts are meant for children that are at risk of abduction or who might be harmed if they go missing. Information on these children will be included in the so-called Schengen Information System (SIS), which contains information on missing persons at border controls in 30 European countries. Preventive alerts will provide law enforcement, specifically border guards, with the necessary information to keep children at risk safe.
“In cooperation with the Dutch Presidency initiative of the Council of the EU, AMBER Alert Europe pioneered the use of preventive alerts in 2016,” says Hoen. “Since then, we have gotten the support of three consecutive presidencies of the EU: the Netherlands, Slovakia and Malta. We successfully managed to include the preventive alerts into the new European legislation to better protect children across Europe.”
Participants from 20 different countries
In addition to Europol and Frontex, members of the national police of the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, the Republic of Srpska (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom participated to the meeting. Canada, the United States and Israel were represented, as well.