Unfortunately, we all know that gut-wrenching feeling of getting the alert on your phone or through your television that a child has been abducted in Canada.
AMBER Alerts have been around in our country since 2002. Thanks to the system, when certain children go missing, the entire country knows about it. Alerts are most notably sent via text as well as over television and radio. This ensures that communities from all over can assist law enforcement in the hopes of the child's safe return.
It may surprise you to find out that as of September 30th, the Missing Children Society Of Canada has received 649 missing children cases this year. This has us asking, with hundreds of cases of missing children, why have there only been five AMBER Alerts issued this year?
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As MCSC spokesperson, Raquel Brown admitted to us that very rarely do missing children cases meet the criteria of an AMBER Alert. Different criteria vary from province to province, but generally, there are four main requirements for an AMBER Alert to be issued:
- The child is under the age of 18.
- There is a belief that the child has been abducted.
- There is a belief that the child is in imminent danger.
- There is information to be released that may help locate the child and/or the abductor. (e.g. description of the child, the suspect or the vehicle driven by the abductor)
In Ontario, criteria once stated that in order to issue an AMBER Alert, there needed to be confirmation that a child had been abducted and was in danger rather than was believed to have been.
This all changed following the kidnapping of 8-year-old, Tori Stafford in Woodstock, Ontario. Because she was only believed to have been kidnapped and in danger, an AMBER Alert was never issued when she went missing.
Three months later, it was discovered she has been raped and murdered when her remains were found. A petition was started online for the OPP to review and change the AMBER Alert criteria to believed rather than confirmed, which they did.
As a fact sheet by the Government of Canada reveals, there were two main scenarios resulting in missing children in 2017. A total of 335 children had wandered off from their parents. A total of 35,822 had run away from home. Another 9,070 children fell into the "unknown" category.
Thankfully, scenarios like abduction and human trafficking remained quite low on the list. However, 27 children who were never found are listed as presumed dead.
Runaway kids and those who have wandered off don't meet the criteria of an AMBER Alert. However, that's where MCSC comes in, "When a child first goes missing, the police, the media and the community rally together to help the terrified family search for their child. But as time goes by, that involvement gradually decreases," they say on their website. MCSC sets out to continue helping families in their search after efforts seem to diminish.
Their service allows police to amplify search efforts through the MCSC network. They work with the network to create a Child Search Alert which is then broadcasted through social media and mobile platforms. Police have 24-hour access to the network to ensure there are as many eyes open for the missing child throughout communities as possible.
MCSC also has their own in-house investigation team. They work with municipal, provincial, national and even international law enforcement agencies to help bring missing children home.
Their investigation services have supported 105 different cases this year alone. They currently have 27 active cases they are working to solve. MCSC receives 2-3 calls per day requesting assistance on missing children. They're also proud to say they close an average of 3 files per week.
Source: Government of Canada, Missing Children Society of Canada