| 17.7°C Dublin

Alert system for abducted children rolled out across Ireland

A LONG awaited Amber Alert system for abducted children has been rolled out across Ireland more than three years after being given the go-ahead.

The Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) Alert will be triggered if gardai believe a child has been abducted and that there is an immediate and serious risk to his or her health or welfare.

Senior gardai said the system - launched on International Missing Children's Day - has the potential to save the life of a child.

More than 130 youngsters who went missing in Ireland between 2007 and 2011 are still unaccounted for.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the aim of the scheme is to get the public's help in child abduction cases.

Road signs, the internet and media will be used to highlight cases.

Once activated, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) will also be informed, the Commissioner said.

"In cases where an abducted child has been brought into or taken out of the jurisdiction the services of Interpol will be utilised," he added.

The Amber Alert began in the US in 1996 when broadcasters teamed up with local police to develop an early warning system - including sharing photos and information - to help find abducted children.

Amber - America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response - was created as a legacy to nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas.

The alert is used in the rare case when it is believed a child has been kidnapped, is in danger, and there is enough information to issue a description. It is credited with helping in the recovery of more than 400 abducted children.

Former justice minister Dermot Ahern first signed off on the US-style rapid response scheme in April 2009.

Police forces across the UK, including the PSNI, have been operating a similar system since 2003 called Child Rescue Alert.