The South African Police Service and Facebook will collaborate to combat child kidnappings and find missing children.
In a letter seen by MyBroadband, SAPS notified staff that Facebook’s Amber Alert for Missing Children functionality will be activated in South Africa on 6 December 2019.
Amber Alerts are messages sent to the public to assist in locating abducted or missing children.
Facebook is already working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the US to broadcast these alerts to Facebook users in the country.
These alerts are sent to users’ Facebook news feeds and include photos and details of the missing children.
Link to Facebook Headquarters
In its letter, SAPS outlined how Amber Alerts would work in South Africa.
It emphasised that the alerts can only be activated upon the request of the police, and not by members of the public or NGOs.
Missing children must therefore first be reported to the police before an Amber Alert can be issued.
“The National Bureau for Missing Persons will send the Amber Alert to the Facebook International Head Quarters, who will communicate the alert to all Facebook users within a 160km radius from the global positioning coordinates, town, or city where the child was last seen,” the letter stated.
“Once Facebook receives the activation email from the SAPS’ Bureau for Missing Persons, the global security team will prepare and activate the alert on Facebook within minutes.”
The Amber Alert will then remain active for 24 hours or until the law enforcement agency cancels the alert, with the public able to report any relevant details via the 086 00 10111 Crime Stop hotline.
The information will then be relayed to the relevant investigating officer, who will be able to send updates to Facebook – including when a child or suspect is spotted.
In order to send the request for an Amber Alert to Facebook, SAPS said it would require the following information:
- A completed SAPS 55(A) form.
- An A1 statement from parent or guardian (the case reporter).
- Proof of a registered enquiry on CAS/ICDMS function 13.1.
- Circulated material, if already circulated.
- The latest-available photograph of the missing child, and, if possible, any assisting information such as the description of the suspect.
- A completed Amber Alert template.
Facebook’s guidelines for suitable cases
Facebook has set out these guidelines to determine whether a case is worthy of an alert:
- The child should preferably be under the age of 13 years old and at imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm. If the child is older than 13 years and under 18 years of age, a written motivation by the investigating officer is crucial.
- The information must be meaningful and adequate, allowing the public to assist the police in locating the missing child.
- Comprehensive background information must be provided by the investigating officer.
- It is preferred that the disappearance be recent and not a ‘cold-case’ or long outstanding cases. However, this is not absolute and will be considered with motivation.
- The investigating officer can, at any time, request the removal of an Amber Alert and a reissue in a different 160km radius, if confirmed sightings of the child were received in a different area.
In certain instances, the National or Provincial Head of Family Violence, Child Protection, and Sexual Offences can request an emergency Amber Alert with basic information, after which the minimum required information must be provided as soon as possible.
To activate an Amber Alert, members of the public will have to contact the Bureau for Missing Persons at Detective Service Division by telephone at 012 393 4664 and send an email with all the required information to [email protected]