The South African Police Service and Facebook have announced a new partnership to help find missing children by sending Amber Alerts to the Facebook community in South Africa.
The first of its kind in Africa, the Amber Alert system will enable the SAPS to seek assistance from the public when it is suspected that a child has been abducted and there is reason to believe there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of the child.
Through Facebook’s Newsfeed, the Amber Alert enables people to instantly share important information about the missing child and suspected abductor, such as a photo, hair colour and clothing with their friends, family and Facebook groups.
Commenting on the launch, Emily Vacher, Facebook’s Director of Trust and Safety, said: “Already available across 23 countries globally, we are proud to partner with the Police to make Amber Alerts available in South Africa – the first African country to join this programme.
When a child is missing, the most valuable thing one can do is share information as quickly as possible. By working with law enforcement in helping to share the right information with the right people, we hope that missing children will be safely reunited with their families faster.”
National Commissioner of the Police, General Khehla Sitole said: “Today we are implementing a strong partnership which will assist with SAPS in improving our response time, to enable us to find and safely recover vulnerable missing, abducted or kidnapped children through one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, Facebook.”
How Amber Alerts work
The decision to declare an Amber Alert is made by the Police when investigating suspected abduction case. Once the Police have been notified about an abducted child, they must first determine if the case meets their Amber Alert criteria, which includes:
The abduction is of a child age 17 or younger;
There is a reasonable belief that the child has been abducted
The South African Police believes the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm.
There is enough descriptive information about the victim and suspected abduction for law enforcement to issue an Amber Alert to assist in recovering the child
A senior member of the South African Police will assess whether these criteria have been met before authorising the Amber Alert.
The police service will then notify Facebook’s Global Security Operations Centre, which operates 24/7, that a verified Amber Alert is active.
Facebook will then quickly send the alert to the News Feeds of people located in targeted search areas in South Africa.
Amber Alerts are active as of 30 January 2020.