Punjab government to introduce 'AMBER-esque' app to help locate missing kids

App will disseminate details of missing child to stakeholders


Our Correspondent January 20, 2018
App will disseminate details of missing child to stakeholders PHOTO:CNN

LAHORE: The government of Punjab has decided to introduce an alert system on the pattern of AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) for the safety and recovery of lost children.

After the vulnerability of children in Pakistan was exposed due to the Zainab murder case, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif established a sub-committee chaired by Chairperson Child Protection Welfare and Bureau (CPWB). He asked CPWB, Punjab Safe Cities Authority, Punjab Information and Technology Board (PITB), Punjab Police and other departments to formulate SOPs and policies to address issues faced by children in Punjab.

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In this regard, a meeting was held at Punjab Safe City Authority Office Qurban Lines. The meeting was chaired by Saba Sadiq and attended by Punjab University Vice Chancellor Dr Zakriya Zakir, PITB Assistant Director Rana Muhammad Arif, DIG Police Sohail Sukhera, Public Prosecutor Joint Director Hasnain Iqbal, Punjab Safe City Authority Deputy Director Umair Ayub, National Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Chaudhry Muhammad Shafiq and others.

The committee debated a three-point agenda which looked at introducing the Amber alert system, formulation of SOPs for social behaviors and protection of children and formulation of Information Technology protocols for the safety of schools, parks and public places.

During the meeting, a presentation of the proposed Amber Alert system was given to the participants. The focus of the alert system was building a mechanism for immediate response by authorities, proactive collaboration between different stakeholders and community engagement.

According to the proposed drafts, a software will by developed by PITB and provided to stakeholders. Once a child goes missing, police would be the first respondent.

On information, they would create an alert with details of the child including age, physical features and area etc.

The alert would be sent to Punjab Safe Cities Authority, local police, Patrolling Police, Traffic Police, Child Protection and Welfare Bureau and all broadcast mediums such as television and radio.

The alert would also be sent through emails and on mobile phone numbers of locals. A single alert will disseminate information about the victim to not only the community, but PSCA could also spot the child through its surveillance system. Also, the information would be provided to police during patrol on streets or roads or those personnel stationed at entry and exit points.

An officer of CPWB told The Express Tribune that ignoring and waiting for the return of the child was a negative social behavior dominant in our society and among first responder law enforcement agencies.

Whenever a child would go missing, parents would first wait for him or her return. When the case was reported to police, it would also ask parents to wait for some time before registering a complaint, he added. “These initial minutes and hours were crucial for child’s recovery and safety. If speedy action is taken on an immediate basis, the victim could be prevented from falling prey to any vulnerable situation,” he added.

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He said that the system would first be initiated as a pilot project in Lahore and Kasur. It will later be replicated throughout Punjab, he added. In this regard, a meeting, chaired by Chief Secretary Punjab will be held on January 22.

According to AMBER’s official website, the alert programme was a voluntary cooperation between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies and the wireless industry to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases.

The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child. It was initiated in 1996 in the US in honor of a minor girl Amber Hagerman, who was killed after abduction in Texas.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2018. 

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