New kidnap alert system 'will save lives of children'
A NEW initiative to rescue abducted children will help save lives by the speedy circulation of information about the crime.
Gardai Commissioner Martin Callinan said yesterday at the launch of Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) that the first few hours after any serious crime were crucial to a garda investigation.
And the focus in this new measure will be on quickly informing the public and enlisting its aid to gather and publish details of the child, the suspect and vehicles used in the abduction.
The information will be circulated through the media, the internet and electronic signs on roads and trains. The HSE, the National Roads Authority, the Railway Procurement Agency, Iarnrod Eireann, Dublin City Council, Dublin Bus, the emergency call answering service and the national media are all involved in the initiative.
The move was warmly welcomed by the mother of Philip Cairns, who disappeared more than 25 years ago. Alice Cairns's son was 13 years old when he vanished while returning to school after his lunch at Ballyroan road, Rathfarnham, Dublin, on October 23, 1986.
Mrs Cairns said the existence of a system like CRI at the time would have increased the prospects of Philip being found.
She said being able to distribute a child's photograph in airports and on ferries as well as alerting motorists on the roads would make a difference.
"In those days, there were no mobile phones and only for the radio, TV and papers, nobody would have known Philip was missing," she added.
Mr Callinan said only an assistant commissioner could trigger or cancel an alert. He noted that while there had been 6,415 reports of missing children in 2011, the vast majority had been found or arrived back shortly after disappearing.
Twelve children are still missing out of that total while another three have not been traced since 2010 and a further 43 since 2009. Last year, there were 13 reported abductions, down from 20 in 2010 and 14 in 2009.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who was also at the launch at garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, said he would press for an international initiative on missing children when Ireland assumed the presidencey of the EU in January.
Both men paid tribute to 24 transition-year students from Davis College, who had travelled from Mallow, Co Cork, for the launch. The students are running the Forget Me Not campaign to raise awareness about missing people in Ireland.
Meanwhile, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has been awarded a European grant to help fund the setting up of a missing children's hotline, which will provide advice and support.