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Missing person - spread the word with social media

With over 3 billion people online, the internet is a resource that needs to be utilised when it comes to spreading the word about a missing child

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | March 18, 2016 | Primary

We have all seen how quickly images, videos and other content become viral on the internet, so we know how powerful social media can be when a message needs to be shared. Around 140,000 children go missing in the UK each year (CEOP Centre) and when this happens, time is crucial and the word needs to be spread quickly and efficiently. Lawrence Royston, managing director of Groupcall, an education communication specialist, discusses how social media and businesses can help to cohere and support the search operation when a child goes missing. 

Recently, the National Crime Agency's (NCA’s) Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) command, in partnership with charity Missing People, and Groupcall, launched a campaign asking people to register for free Child Rescue Alerts (CRA), with the aim of having 1 million people, including businesses, signed up to receive the alerts by the end of the year. The CRA System allows alerts to be issued immediately via text, email, social media and digital billboards when a child goes missing.

As part of the campaign, Britain’s well-loved comedian, actor and writer, Stephen Fry, is pictured in a ‘super-man’ style pose, ripping open his shirt to reveal a superhero emblem underneath. Fry’s character in the advert asks members of the pubic to become “heroes” by signing up to receive the alerts. Fry, charity patron of Missing People, said that the alerts are like a fire extinguisher that “everyone should have ready to use at a moment’s notice, but we all hope that we will never need it”. The campaign reached thousands of people because of social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook.

With over 3 billion people online, it makes the internet a resource that needs to be utilised when it comes to spreading the word about a missing child. The six hours after a child disappears are referred to as the “golden hours”, because it is the critical time in which significant information and clues need to be discovered before they are lost or contaminated and lines of enquiry are most likely to yield positive results. Therefore, the sooner the public are informed of a missing person, and the message spread across social media, the greater the chance of a child being safely found.

The CRA campaign has partnered with Facebook, Twitter, Google, The Press Association and Royal Mail to circulate alerts when a child goes missing. The collaboration means that when a CRA is issued, the information will automatically appear on newsfeeds and can be shared to specific geographical locations, including where the child was last sighted. With eyes and ears on the ground searching for the child and providing useful information, the chance of a child’s safe return is increased, and the greater likelihood that the perpetrator will be caught and prosecuted.

You too can sign up to become a Search Partner and allow alerts to be issued via your digital media platforms, including organisational networks, personal blogs or online stores.

How it works

After a child at high-risk is reported missing to the police and an investigation initiated, the case’s details are then passed onto Missing People, who enter the data into the system. The investigating police force prepare the telephone operators to receive responses from members of the public and Google Maps API is used to immediately collate the contact details for everyone in any given area who has registered for free alerts. The relevant Police Force then activates the CRA.

Getting the word out there as quickly and effectively as possible and having members of the public aware that a child is missing is crucial, as every second is vital in the search for a missing person. It’s completely free to use, so there’s no reason why we can’t all do our bit to help!

To register, text ‘HERO’ and your postcode to 85080. Registration costs a standard network text message rate. Obtain bill payer’s permission. Customer care 0208 392 4571. Once registered, it is then free to receive alerts. 

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