Thousands of people could receive free instant messages to their phones every time a child is reported missing in Greater Manchester with a new Child Rescue Alert system.
The scheme, being introduced by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and the National Crime Agency, will also reach social media sites in the search for any of the 140,000 children reported missing in the UK every year.
People who register for the messages will be notified as police aim to speed up the operation for children who are in immediate danger.
Detective Inspector Paul Parker said: “Any child that goes missing is a worry and this alert while used very rarely can assist emergency services such as police in saving a child.
“It is imperative that as many members of the public as possible know about it so that they can help us return those youngsters safely.
“We would encourage members of the public to register themselves with the Child Rescue Alert as every minute a child goes missing is a minute too long.”
Manager of Missing and Abducted Children at the CEOP Command Charlie Hedges also pleaded with the public to get on board to ensure children are returned home safely as soon as possible.
Mr Hedges said: “The success of the Child Rescue Alert is down to each and every one of us.
“I’ve already been encouraged by the wide range of organisations who have joined us in partnership to offer their support and help launch this invaluable tool.
“Now it’s down to the public to sign up for the alerts so we can send the message as widely as possible when a child goes missing.”
Also run in conjunction with charity Missing People and communications firm Groupcall, Hedges insists the scheme will boost the speed of search operations.
“With the expertise of the National Crime Agency, Missing People and Groupcall joining forces with some of the UK’s most powerful and influential organisations, we can ensure that not a single minute is wasted after a child goes missing,” said Hedges.
The Safe In the City Manchester project, run by charity The Children’s Society, works with runaways to ‘make childhood better’ – and they have added their backing to the Child Rescue Alert scheme.
Rob Jackson, North West Area Director of The Children’s Society, told MM: “All children that go missing are at risk, even if they’re just missing for a few hours.
“They might come into contact with adults that want to exploit them, come into contact with drugs and alcohol or be forced to beg or steal to survive.”
Mr Jackson insists the alert scheme could help the charity to reach more children than ever before.
“The Manchester Safe In the City service provides support to children who have runaway, providing them with a trusted and independent adult to talk to about why they went missing and what happened to them while away,” said Mr Jackson.
“We know first-hand the dangers these children face and how vulnerable they can be.
“We think the Child Rescue Alert is a really positive move. In certain high risk cases, it can help locate children quickly and get them off the streets, it could remove them from the dangers, keep them safe and make it easier for charities like ours to help.”
Members of the public pre-registering for the free alerts at this website can receive them via text message to their mobile and by email, as well as registering both their work and home locations.
Image courtesy of Dominik Syka with thanks