I would especially like to welcome the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter, T.D. and thank him for lending his support to this initiative. I would like to give a special mention to the 24 Transition Year students of Davis College who travelled from Mallow to be here today. These students are currently running the Forget Me Not Campaign to raise awareness about missing people in Ireland.
As many of you know today is International Missing Children’s day and since 1983 the 25th May has served as an annual reminder for the families of missing children that everyone can play a part in bringing a missing child home. For the past three years the International Centre of Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) promotes the 25th May to raise awareness for missing and exploited children across the world. An Garda Síochána are proud to have a close working relationship with ICMEC since 2004 and the Garda organisation has contributed to international conferences focusing on many aspects of missing children including child abductions. With this in mind it is appropriate that the CRI Alert system is launched today.
The purpose of the CRI Alert is to seek the assistance of the public when investigating child abduction cases. It does so by publicising relevant information and details which facilitate members of the public in identifying the abducted child, the suspect, or vehicles involved in the abduction and immediately feeding that information back to the investigating Gardaí.
The Council of the European Union called upon Member States to introduce and develop national mechanisms for alerting the general public in the event of child abduction and indeed this is also recognised in one of the recommendations in the Garda Inspectorate Report Number 5, published in March 2009.
Strict criteria must be met before the CRI Alert will be issued. The criteria for a CRI Alert are:
1. The child is under the age of eighteen (18) years
2. There is a reasonable belief that the child has been abducted
3. There is a reasonable belief that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child
4. There is sufficient information available to enable the public to assist An Garda Síochána in locating the child.
If the criteria are met, CRI alert information is assembled by An Garda Síochána and distributed to the public.
A number of external agencies have partnered with An Garda Síochána and Memorandums of Understanding are in place between the different agencies ensuring a coordinated approach when initiating a CRI Alert. An Garda Síochána is working together with agencies such as the:
· The National Roads Authority
· Health Service Executive
· The Railway Procurement Agency
· Iarnród Eireann
· Dublin City Council
· Dublin Bus
· Emergency Call Answering Service
· The National Media – Print and Broadcast
It is only through this coordinated multiagency approach and using the assistance of the public that the CRI Alert will function to its full potential. We are grateful to everyone for their commitment and support.
It is important to emphasise that a CRI Alert will only be initiated when there is a reasonable belief that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health and welfare of the abducted child. The Garda Press and Public Relations Office will provide the media and other information broadcasters with relevant information to alert the public and seek their help.
The information relating to the CRI Alert will be broadcast via several different types of media, including radio, television, internet and electronic road signs. This information may include descriptions and pictures of the missing child, the suspect and registrations or descriptions of vehicles involved in the abduction along with any other information available that may be valuable in rescuing the child or identifying the suspect.
A CRI Alert is an investigative tool used by An Garda Síochána and while many agencies assist in the alert process only an Assistant Commissioner can initiate or cancel an alert. CRI Alerts will be issued on a case by case basis. An Garda Síochána will continue to work with communities to protect the welfare of a child and every case will continue to be investigated thoroughly and professionally utilising all available resources.
Police forces in the United Kingdom, including the Police Service of Northern Ireland, have been operating alert system since 2003 called Child Rescue Alert.
Both An Garda Síochána and the PSNI are in agreement that should an alert be triggered in either jurisdiction, the other force will always be informed regardless of whether or not the child has crossed the border. In cases where an abducted child has been brought into or taken out of the jurisdiction the services of INTERPOL will be utilised.
The success of a CRI Alert will depend on the level of engagement of the supporting agencies, media and the general public. When a CRI alert is initiated, bearing in mind its strict criteria, the public will know that a very serious situation has occurred and that the life of a child is in danger.
I would urge each and every member of the public to engage fully with the CRI Alert and never hesitate to dial 112 with any information relating to the alert message. It is only through this multiagency approach and with the full assistance of the public that the CRI Alert will function successfully and, hopefully, save the life of a child.
Photographs taken at the launch