There are new efforts to try to track down missing kids faster. Now, Facebook is joining the effort. From here on out, when a child goes missing in your area, an AMBER Alert will appear in your news feed.
The system is unique. Instead of sending out nationwide AMBER Alerts, the Facebook system will only let you know if there?s a missing child in your search area. Local law enforcement says it will likely be a big help.
?I think it?s a huge benefit to law enforcement,? says Bernalillo County Sheriff?s Deputy Aaron Williamson.
Williamson says back in the old days, you had to wait for the news cycle to hear about AMBER alerts. He says even with digital billboards, the notifications don?t reach everyone. That?s where Facebook comes in to help.
As technology has improved, we now have cellphone alerts, but Williamson says not everyone with a smartphone has their emergency alerts turned on. He says this system could reach people other alert systems don?t.
?People that are subscribed to Facebook, they?re going to get that alert. They?re going to get that information for something that?s happening in their area, so if you?ve got 1,000 people at the Coronado Center on a weekend and they get a Facebook alert, they?re able to look right then and there and help us, hopefully, safely return that child back to their family,? explains Williamson.
Of course, people have already been using Facebook to find missing children. In fact, an 11-year-old was located last year after a South Carolina motel employee recognized a photo of the girl in a Facebook post.
In the past, Amber Alerts have spread via telephone and billboards. A collaboration with one of the world?s biggest online networks seems like a no-brainer.
Facebook?s trust and safety manager, Emily Vacher, points out that Facebook has already facilitated happy reunions when families have used the site to spread the word within their own communities about a missing child. With Amber Alerts on Facebook, families will be able to reach even more viewers who might have information about the child. The Amber Alert will include a picture of the child and will be targeted towards Facebook users living in the general area where an abduction may have taken place. Users will only receive notifications about children missing in their area.
With the ability to share an Amber Alert across the Facebook network, the NCMEC is optimistic that missing children will be found more quickly and more frequently. ?Amber Alerts are very rare occurrences,? according to Vacher, ?so when you see one of these on Facebook, take a couple of minutes to read the alert, to share the information with you friends and family, and just pay attention to your surroundings, because a tip that you may find may actually result in reuniting a child with their family.?