Facebook, SAPS launch “Amber Alert” to combat child kidnapping


The South African Police Service (SAPS), in partnership with Facebook, has launched an “Amber Alert” tool for South Africa to combat child kidnappings and find missing children. The launch took place in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The world’s largest social media firm has activated its “Amber Alert for Missing Children” functionality in SA, aimed at helping families and authorities to successfully recover missing children.

Claimed to be the first of its kind in Africa, the Amber Alert system enables 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. Once missing children have been reported to the police, the Amber Alert can be activated, sending information to the Facebook News Feeds in targeted search areas.

The alert enables people to instantly share important information about the missing child and suspected abductor, such as a photo, hair colour and clothing, with friends, family and Facebook groups.

Emily Vacher, Facebook’s director of trust and safety, addressed the audience during yesterday’s launch: “Already available across 23 countries globally, we are proud to partner with the South African Police Service to make Amber Alerts available – 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.”

The initiative is a global partnership with law-enforcement agencies across the globe, which the social media network says has seen great successes since inception.

National SAPS commissioner general Khehla Sitole said: “Today, we are implementing a strong partnership which will assist the 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.

The ‘Amber Alert’ remains 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 0010111 Crime Stop hotline,” she said.

Emilar Gandhi, Facebook head of public policy, SADC region, added: “This is an important step forward in our continued investment and commitment not only to SA but across the African continent. The goal of Facebook’s Amber Alert programme is to instantly galvanise the entire community in the search and recovery of a missing child. Using Facebook enhances the current distribution system by providing all of this information in one place and giving people the ability to share it, wherever they are.

How Amber Alert works

Once SAPS has been notified about an abducted child, it must first determine if the case meets the Amber Alert criteria. If it does, 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 SA.

The public is able to report any relevant details via the platform or through the 086 0010111 Crime Stop hotline.

By: Bradley Brizzy