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Alert System to Catch Child Abductors

Child abductors be warned: police, media and the community are about to join forces in the fight to keep children safe.
Queensland Police Minister Judy Spence said a working party which included police, high-ranking public servants and media representatives had been formed with the express aim of getting details of child abductions into public awareness as soon as possible.
She said the idea was for radio and television programs to be interrupted to get the abduction information across quickly, without waiting for regular news broadcasts.
"The abduction of a child is a heinous crime and this is one way the police, media and the community can fight back, deterring and catching abductors and returning children as soon as possible," Ms Spence said.
"... If police believe a child has been abducted, the media ... broadcasts details about the child, where they were last seen and any other important information."
Ms Spence said the decision to try the Australia-first system had been sparked by an increase in the number of reported abductions and attempted abductions in recent times.
The most recent of these was yesterday's kidnapping of two boys, aged three and five, who were allegedly threatened with being chopped up after being snatched by a woman on Brisbane's northside.
In this case the boys were later found safe and well, with their abductor now in custody.
The fate of Sunshine Coast teenager Daniel Morcombe, however, is still unknown after he disappeared while waiting for a bus on December 7.
Ms Spence said the system was based on the Amber Alert program in the United States which was founded after the 1997 abduction and murder of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman.
Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said there would be a number of difficulties involved in the use of an Amber Alert-styled system.
He said one of the most important factors was to ensure the accuracy of the information before handing it over to the media.
Mr Atkinson said initial reports were often full of incorrect information which, if released too early, could see the wrong suspect targeted while allowing the real offender time to get away.
The working party will meet for the first time next week and hopes to have its recommendations ready in three months.
If approved by Cabinet, the system would be implemented early next year.

AAP (13-8-2004)

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