In a pioneering move the South African Police Service and Facebook are collaborating to employ the #AmberAlert platform for reporting missing people quicker and more easily.
The service will allow the South African Police to send out missing persons alerts more easily and help communities spread the word about the missing person more widely.
National Police Commissioner General Sitole says Facebook’s #AmberAlert is an example of how social media positively contributes in the fight against crime.
South Africa is the first country in Africa to receive this unique service and the 23rd country in the world to implement this project.
This new offering comes after the country’s ongoing struggle with high volumes of missing people. According to Lieutenant general Tebello Mosikili more than 200 children are reported missing every month in South Africa and this number is even higher when accounting for adults who go missing. Only half of the missing children are ever found while the rest of the cases run cold.
Facebook approached the police force with a solution to the problem.
How does it work
When a case file is opened, the bureau of missing persons will automatically send the information on to Facebook.
Alerts on missing people will be sent out to roughly 28-million users in relevant areas who will be able to offer assistance or information of the case if they can.
“Starting today, Facebook will send alerts to people who are best able to find the child. It is important however to note that these will occur rarely and in special circumstances,” says Emily Vatcher, director of trust and safety at Facebook.
A dedicated team from Facebook will be working on the alerts and children who have been abducted or believed to be in imminent danger will be prioritised.
This new service is expected to greatly increase resources for finding missing people and children in future but communities will be heavily relied on for support.
“We need the communities’ assistance when a Amber Alert is issued. Report any information and help us find missing children,” says General Sitole.