CRA is intended to be activated by the police when particular criteria are met:
If the child is the subject of a CRA then immediately contact the police using the details provided in the alert message. This is the fastest way to get the information – which could be vital - to the police.
AMBER Alert Netherlands reports that the AMBER Alert system has been used there on average 4 times per year over the last few years. In 64% of these cases the child was found thanks to information arising from the AMBER Alert.
In 2016, 43 children in the USA were safely recovered in circumstances which could be directly attributed to the American AMBER Alert system.
When a CRA is activated huge numbers of people will very quickly become aware of the endangered child. They need to be motivated sufficiently to keep their eyes open and be prepared to report sightings. We have to ensure that people notice the alerts. This is why there are strict criteria. If alerts are raised too frequently, CRA could become ineffective. The alerts are for the most high risk cases. More general media appeals can be used for other cases.
One of the risks inherent in the use of any public appeals is that they will be seen or heard by individuals we may prefer not to have that information. All such appeals are risk assessed to consider the issues related to broadcasting the information before deciding whether or not to do so. The only way to guarantee that the information does not reach the wrong people is not to release it at all. However, this would mean that in many cases recovery and safeguarding would be delayed or hindered, resulting in further harm being perpetuated.
The decision to issue a CRA is not taken lightly, and as with any information put into the public domain for any missing child, any possible risks to the child in publicising their disappearance are balanced against the risks faced by the child while they are missing.
Systems similar to CRA are in operation in the USA, Ireland, the Netherlands and Greece, among others. Systems are branded AMBER Alert, Child Alert and Alert Hellas.