Police and Facebook launch Amber Alerts system

A mock-up of what the Amber Alerts would look like. Image supplied

Police and Facebook have this morning launched the Amber Alerts system in New Zealand at Police National Headquarters.

The Amber Alerts system assists by quickly notifying the public, through as many channels as possible, when a child or young person is missing and is at immediate risk of harm.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush says the Amber Alerts system is a valuable new tool for police to have access to.

“There have only been a very small number of abductions involving children in New Zealand’s history, but other situations, such as where a young child goes missing from home and is at serious risk of harm, occur more regularly.

“When these sorts of incidents do happen, police take them very seriously and will consider every option available to us to locate a child we have extreme concerns for.

“Having the Amber Alerts system means we now have another useful tool to quickly contact the public in emergency situations.

“If we can use it to help save even just one child, then it is a system worth having,” says Commissioner Bush.

Police will activate an Amber Alert if it is believed a child or young person who is missing is at serious risk of harm and public assistance could help to locate them.

Once the alert is activated, people who are part of the Facebook community in the targeted search area will receive a notification at the top of their news feed.  People can then choose to share the alert with their Facebook friends to help spread the word.

Media organisations will also receive an immediate notification from police.

The alerts include a photograph of the child, any important information about the circumstances in which they went missing, and an indication that there is an active search going on.

On September 1, 1983, 14-year-old Kirsa Jensen rode her horse to the beach at Awatoto, Napier, and never returned home.

Despite extensive police enquiries, Kirsa has never been located.

Her mother Robyn Jensen, says Kirsa’s story could have been a different one if a tool like the Amber Alert system had existed then.

“Ensuring people quickly learn about a missing child is of utmost importance.

Amber Alerts is a wonderful way to spread the word and widen the circle of people watching out for a missing child.  If this technology had been available in 1983 it could have been a different story for Kirsa.

“To lose a child is devastating but what makes it extraordinarily hard is just not knowing what has happened.  I remain locked into that moment in time when Kirsa went missing.”

Director, Trust and Safety at Facebook, Emily Vacher, says that keeping the community safe means everything.

“We are proud to partner with New Zealand Police to make Amber Alerts available to help children and their families.  When a child is missing, the most valuable thing we can do is get information out to the public as quickly as possible.

“By getting the right information to the right people, at the right time through Amber Alerts on Facebook, we hope to reunite missing children with their families faster,” says Ms Vacher.

Commissioner Bush says, “New Zealand is a safe country for our children to live in – Amber Alerts will help to make it even safer.”