Today, An Garda Síochána is announcing a new partnership with Facebook to distribute Child Rescue Ireland Alerts (CRI Alert) to people across Ireland who can help find missing children in times of need.

CRI Alert is a system that enables An Garda Síochána to seek the assistance of the public when it is suspected that a child has been abducted and there is reason to believe that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of the child.

The goal of these alerts is to notify the public and instantly galvanise the entire community in the search and recovery of an abducted child. In Ireland, they are broadcast via several media, including to radio, television, internet and electronic road signs. The expansion of the programme to include distribution through Facebook’s Newsfeed, gives people an instant way to share important information about the missing child and suspected abductor, such as a photo, hair colour and clothes, with their friends and family and community groups.

Commenting at the launch the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, said, “I am delighted to attend the launch of this important initiative between An Garda Síochána and Facebook. The extent of Facebook’s reach means that its ability to swiftly communicate these critical CRI Alerts to a significant portion of the national population is unparalleled. The CRI Alert partnership is a wonderful example of using social media in a positive way for the good of society and, in particular, for the protection of vulnerable children. I commend the collaboration between An Garda Síochána and Facebook and also welcome the opportunity this engagement provides to raise awareness of the issue of missing persons, more generally. In December this year, I will host Ireland’s sixth annual national Missing Persons Day ceremony and I look forward to hearing more about the operation of the Garda / Facebook CRI Alert partnership during our national day of commemoration.”

Assistant Commissioner Special Crime Operations John O’Driscoll of An Garda Siochana said of the collaboration, “When a child is abducted and in danger, an extra pair of eyes can make all the difference. Since it was launched in 2012, our Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) Alerts already reach a big audience thanks to electronic road signs, radio and television, but now that they can be sent through Facebook, even more people will participate in the search, which significantly increases the chances of bringing the child back home safely.”

Emily Vacher, Facebook’s Director Trust and Safety is proud to partner with An Garda Síochána, commenting, “The launch today shows the determination of the Gardaí to increase the reach of Child Alert Ireland. We know that when a child is abducted, the most valuable thing we can do is get information out to the public as fast as possible. By getting the right information to the right people at the right time through Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) Alerts on Facebook, we hope to reunite children with their families faster.”

How it works

The decision to declare a CRI Alert is made by An Garda Siochána when investigating abductions. Once An Garda Síochána has been notified about an abducted child, they must first determine if the case meets their CRI Alert criteria, which are:

  • The child is under the age of eighteen years old
  • There is a reasonable belief that the child has been abducted
  • There is a reasonable belief that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child
  • There is sufficient information available to enable the public to assist An Garda Síochána in locating the child

A senior member of An Garda Síochána will assess whether these criteria have been met before authorising the CRI Alert. Gardaí will notify Facebook’s security team, which operates on a 24/7 basis, that a verified CRI Alert is active. Facebook will then send the alert to the Newsfeeds of people in Ireland as quickly as possible.

“It includes a picture of the child and any information that the public would need to be able to help find this child, for example a description of the vehicle,” says Emily Vacher, Trust and Safety Manager at Facebook Security. “People will also be able to share the CRI Alert with their Facebook community, in hopes of extending the reach even further,” she concludes.

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