Police and Facebook launch AMBER Alerts system in NZ

Police and Facebook launch AMBER Alerts system in NZ

Kirsa Jensen AMBER Alert example image
National News

Police and Facebook have this morning launched the AMBER Alerts system in New Zealand at Police National Headquarters.

The AMBER Alerts system assists by quickly notifying the public, through as many channels as possible, when a child or young person is missing and is at immediate risk of harm.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush says the AMBER Alerts system is a valuable new tool for Police to have access to.

“There have only been a very small number of abductions involving children in New Zealand’s history, but other situations, such as where a young child goes missing from home and is at serious risk of harm, occur more regularly.

“When these sorts of incidents do happen, Police takes them very seriously and will consider every option available to us to locate a child we have extreme concerns for.

“Having the AMBER Alerts system means we now have another useful tool to quickly contact the public in emergency situations.

“If we can use it to help save even just one child, then it is a system worth having,” says Commissioner Bush.

Police will activate an AMBER Alert if it is believed a child or young person who is missing is at serious risk of harm and public assistance could help to locate them.

Once the alert is activated, people who are part of the Facebook community in the targeted search area will receive a notification at the top of their ‘News Feed’.  People can then choose to share the alert with their Facebook friends to help spread the word.

Media organisations will also receive an immediate notification from Police.

The alerts include a photograph of the child, any important information about the circumstances in which they went missing, and an indication that there is an active search going on.
On September 1st 1983 14-year-old Kirsa Jensen rode her horse to the beach at Awatoto, Napier and never returned home. Despite extensive Police enquiries, Kirsa has never been located.

Her mother Robyn Jensen, says Kirsa’s story could have been a different one if a tool like the AMBER Alert system had existed then.

“Ensuring people quickly learn about a missing child is of utmost importance. AMBER Alerts is a wonderful way to spread the word and widen the circle of people watching out for a missing child.  If this technology had been available in 1983 it could have been a different story for Kirsa.

“To lose a child is devastating but what makes it extraordinarily hard is just not knowing what has happened.  I remain locked into that moment in time when Kirsa went missing.”

Director, Trust and Safety at Facebook, Emily Vacher, says that keeping our community safe means everything to the team at Facebook.

"We are proud to partner with New Zealand Police to make AMBER Alerts available to help children and their families.  When a child is missing, the most valuable thing we can do is get information out to the public as quickly as possible.

“By getting the right information to the right people, at the right time through AMBER Alerts on Facebook, we hope to reunite missing children with their families faster," says Ms Vacher.

Commissioner Bush says, “New Zealand is a safe country for our children to live in – AMBER Alerts will help to make it even safer.”

ENDS

To enquire about media opportunities with NZ Police or Robyn Jensen, please contact Philippa Ormrod: philippa.ormrod@police.govt.nz / 021 819 839.

For media opportunities with Facebook, please contact: Paul O’Leary, Pursuit PR: 0272 795 742 / paul@pursuitpr.co.nz

You can view a short video about AMBER Alerts launching in New Zealand on the New Zealand Police Facebook page. Please feel free to share this video.

AMBER Alerts Q&A for media:

What is the criteria needed for Police to activate an AMBER Alert?

AMBER Alerts can only be approved and activated by a Police Communications Centre Shift Commander.
The following criteria must be met to activate an AMBER Alert:
-There is information to indicate that the missing child or young person is in imminent danger of serious harm or death
-Sufficient description of the missing child or young person is available that will assist in the recovery
-The missing person is a child or young person under 18 years of age
If the above criteria cannot be met, then an AMBER alert will not be activated and Police will proceed with the usual missing person protocols appropriate to the individual case.

Who receives an AMBER Alert?

Police will activate an AMBER Alert if it is believed a child who is missing is at serious risk of harm and public assistance could help to locate them.
Once the alert is activated, a notification will be sent immediately to:
-Media organisations subscribed to ‘all news alerts’ through the NZ Police website.
-Every Facebook user within a 160km radius of the area the child has gone missing from.
The alerts will appear in a person’s ‘News Feed’, but will not trigger any notifications to a person’s phone.

What does an AMBER Alert look like?

The alerts include information about the child e.g. name, age and gender etc. They will feature a photograph along with any important information about the circumstances in which the child went missing, and an indication that there is an active search going on. (see example image attached)

Does Facebook charge NZ Police for activating an AMBER Alert?

No, this is a free service provided to New Zealand Police by Facebook.

What is New Zealand’s history of child abductions?

In New Zealand child abductions are incredibly rare.  Of all of the children reported missing to Police in suspicious circumstances since 1932, eight remain missing today.

Where is the Kirsa Jensen case at currently?

Unsolved cases of this nature remain open and Police will assess any new information received to determine if it will be of any assistance in advancing the case.

The Police National Criminal Investigations Group oversees cases at a national level, however files are held by each district.  The districts conduct periodic reviews of unsolved missing persons cases and direct further investigations when new information comes to hand.

People go missing for different reasons, sometimes voluntarily and at other times not by choice, for example if they are a victim of foul play, mishap or misadventure.  All missing person files remain active until the missing person is located.

Where did AMBER Alerts originate?

AMBER Alerts originated in the United States in 1996 following the abduction and murder of 9-year-old of Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas.
Today, AMBER Alerts are being used in all 50 US states and 22 other countries including Australia, Canada, Greece, Korea, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Taiwan, Jamaica, Malta, Mexico and Luxembourg.

How many people use Facebook in New Zealand?

2.9 million New Zealanders are active on Facebook.