Sat | Feb 29, 2020

Review Ananda Alert system – Blaine

Published:Tuesday | May 21, 2019 | 12:21 AMDanae Hyman/Staff Reporter

The Ananda Alert programme must be urgently reviewed to resolve years-long inefficiencies, says Betty Ann Blaine, founder of Hear The Children’s Cry, an advocacy group committed to the welfare of Jamaica’s children.

The system, which was launched in 2009 following national outcry after the brutal slaying of 11-year-old Ananda Dean, was mooted with numerous strategies that were touted as steps in the right direction.

Expecting to reunite missing children with their families speedily, the strategies were centred around publishing the pictures of missing children in public spaces, including supermarkets, churches, notice boards in public markets, and on electronic billboards 12 hours after an alarm had been made.

Descriptions of missing children were also to be shared with mobile users via SMS.

However, certain aspects of the promised programme seem to be in disarray, while others never made it off the ground.

As the 10th anniversary of launch date approaches, Blaine is urging the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), which has oversight responsibility for the Ananda Alert system, to review promised strategies and implement new ones.

“The CPFSA and the Government now need to look back and do a ... kind of audit to see whether the thing has worked and develop criteria because after 10 years, they should be able to tell the Jamaican public if it had been successful and what are the weaknesses and strengths,” Blaine said.

According to her, one factor that impedes the recovery of missing children is the time that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) takes to deploy search-and-rescue teams.

“Your best chance of finding a child alive is that you have to mount the searches right away; it has to be immediate,” Blaine said.

Blane’s top tips

1. Police should start searching for missing children as soon as a report is made.

2. The JCF, along with all stakeholders in the Ananda Alert system, should build community support to aid in the search for missing children.

3. Launch expanded public-education campaigns with a working phone number for persons with information to give tips.

4. Restart the sending of alerts, along with photographs, to mobile users.

5. Conduct visits to the residences of missing children from the moment a report is made.