Trinity Mount Ministries

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Facebook and New Zealand Police Team Up to find Missing Children

Facebook and New Zealand Police are teaming up to launch a system for finding missing children.

The Amber Alerts system will be activated if a child is missing, and considered at serious risk of harm.

Once it's activated, people in the targeted search area will receive a notification at the top of their Facebook news feed, which they can also choose to share with their friends.

The alert will include a photo of the child, and any important information about the circumstances in which they went missing.

Facebook director of trust and safety Emily Vacher said all it took for police to activate the alert was sending an email to a dedicated Facebook email address that was monitored 24/7.

"As soon as we get the alert from the police, we prepare the notice.

"People care so deeply about the children in their communities, that really, this was just something that Facebook could assist with by building a tool."

Vacher was an FBI agent on the child abduction team, before leaving to work for Facebook.

She said Facebook was the perfect way to deliver messages that could be life-saving.

"We wanted to create a tool where the maximum number of people who would be able to help could access the information.

"So rather than sharing by individual people, it's a more formal system."

Police commissioner Mike Bush said that child abductions were rare in New Zealand, but child regularly went missing from home and were considered at serious risk of harm.

"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."

It's a tool Robyn Jensen wishes had been available when her 14-year-old daughter went missing in 1983.

Kirsa Jensen rode her horse to the beach at Awatoto, Napier, on September 1, 1983.

She never returned home and, despite extensive police inquiries, has never been found.

Robyn said the story might have been different if a tool like the Amber Alert had existed then.

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

"[This] is a wonderful way to spread the word and widen the circle of people watching out for a missing child.

"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."

The new tool was launched at 10am today at Police National Headquarters in Wellington.

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