Will the introduction of "Find Me" speed up the finding of missing children?

Photo: EPA-EFE/ARIE KIEVIT

If there was a "Find Me" (Amber Alert) system that brings results all over the world, maybe 24 hours would not have passed since the disappearance of 14-year-old Vanja Gjorchevska, who has been missing since yesterday morning. As previously announced, a similar system will be implemented starting next month in Macedonia. The Find Me system works in the United States, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Malta, Ireland, Bulgaria, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.

On social networks, we often come across news about the disappearance of children and attempted abductions. In such situations, the search would be much easier and faster if useful information about the missing persons, such as name, height, appearance, last location where they were seen, would arrive at a moment via social networks, televisions, radios.

Until recently, the usual police practice around the world was to start searching for missing persons, including children, 24 or 48 hours after the disappearance. The practice was like that because in most cases teenage girls run away with their boyfriends, or the reason for running away from home is a family quarrel.

"Amber alert" or "Find me" is a model of spreading and publishing information to the public in the situation of missing children. The goal is for the news of a missing person to reach the citizens as quickly as possible through various media, television and radio shows, the Internet, SMS messages, after which they will be potential finders of the missing children. "Find me", it says in the short but important text message that citizens also receive on their mobile phones. The goal is that if they have any information about the disappearance, they will share it immediately.

Photo: EPA-EFE / CLEMENS BILAN

In Serbia, the "Find Me" system is activated when a child's life is in danger, and it works by interrupting television programs every half hour for the first eight hours after the disappearance.

"After those eight hours until 48 hours have passed since the disappearance was reported, the broadcast of that announcement will have to continue every hour. After that, the media are no longer obliged to publish the information, unless the police ask for it," explains the President of the Center for Missing and Abused Children, Igor Jurić.

The Find Me system was created in the United States in 1996, and was named after Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old girl from Texas who was kidnapped and murdered.

Amber Hagerman, who was a normal girl, together with her younger brother, rode their bikes to the parking lot of an abandoned store, where all the children of the neighborhood gathered. Her brother left, but she stayed.

Amber's abduction itself was witnessed by an elderly Arlington resident who testified that he saw a black car pull up and grab the girl. Despite the loud scream, Amber still couldn't save herself.

The witness called the police and reported the case. The patrol arrived quickly and recorded the description given by the witness, that the kidnapper is white or Hispanic, between 25 and 40 years old, average height, average build. A description that was not of much use to the police.

FBI agents were involved in the investigation itself, and 60 police officers participated in the search.

Five days after the abduction, a passerby walking his dog found Amber's body dumped in a stream. The place where the body was found was less than 10 kilometers from the parking lot where the kidnapping took place. Her killer was never brought to justice.

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