More needs to be done to familiarise communities of the Amber Alert project, which was rolled out in South Africa at the beginning of the year as a partnership between the SAPS and Facebook.
This child abduction alert system, which was first established in the United States in 1996, sends out messages to the general public to ask for help in finding abducted children. Through the Facebook partnership, SAPS can now publish the details of the missing child to all Facebook users within a 160km radius of where the missing child was last seen.
This is a vital tool available in the fight against the abduction, kidnapping and trafficking of children.
At the initial launch, all provinces were encouraged to implement and utilise this new feature, but to date. it appears that this facility has been underutilised and under publicised in the Eastern Cape, with no Amber Alerts made this year.
In response to a parliamentary question, MEC for Community Safety, Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe, said when a member of the public reports missing children to the police, the police, in turn, activate the Amber Alert feature.
See: IQP 22 response 527
The Amber Alert is also monitored by the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Unit which deals with the investigation of missing children, kidnapping and abduction cases.
This feature is a positive measure that should be taken forward particularly as we have just emerged from the period of 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, where everyone is calling for more action.
There is no doubt that the utilization of technology can play a huge role in fighting crime. When this feature is correctly utilised, it has great potential to assist in finding missing children, as such posts can go viral in a short space of time, through community members sharing it.
I want to urge the public and SAPS to make use of this new feature, especially as we are heading into the festive season. I call on all community police forums, neighbourhood watches, and street communities to take this project on board.