THUNDER BAY – Crimebeat – One of the key components that help police officers do their tasks is the active co-operation of the public and the media. One area that is especially critical is in cases of missing persons, especially children. The dissemination of time-sensitive information is critical when a child is believed to have been abducted. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) as the Provincial Coordinator of the Ontario AMBER Alert Program is pleased to announce a new partnership with The Missing Children’s Society of Canada (MCSC).
Whether a child has been missing for 15 minutes or 15 years, communicating time-sensitive information in a case’s breakthrough moment is critical in bringing that child back to safety. While the search for a missing child once involved a face on a milk carton, new media technologies are bringing immediacy, social relevance and real-time community participation to the search for a missing child.
“We now have incredible technological tools at our disposal that have not typically been optimized in the search for a missing child,” explains Amanda Pick, Executive Director of the Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC). “We believe everyday citizens are concerned about the well-being of a missing child, but it’s important to meet these people where they live their lives – online, on-the-go and on their phones.”
Over the past two years, MCSC has made a significant shift toward embracing technology to support their ongoing, hands-on investigations.
Here is how you can help
1. Download the Poynt Smartphone Application: Poynt is a free app for BlackBerry, iPhone, and other smartphones and devices. As a Search Partner with MCSC, Poynt has integrated a geo-targeted push system into their Poynt App to aid in the timely recovery of missing children. Through this Push System, we will be able to quickly notify Poynt users within a relevant, geo-targeted area with our Child Search Alerts on breaking developments of an active missing child investigation.
MCSC shares, “The Push System will enable us to quickly create an alert – including a child’s photo and all the basic profile information – and then send it out to Poynt users in a specific geographic area. We can target entire cities, or pinpoint within 1 meter. Users receive a simple notification “There is a missing child alert in your area”. By simply clicking the alert, the user’s device will then show further detail about the child. There will also be the ability to then view the entire MCSC mobile site if the user wants more information.
MCSC states “We push out national, time sensitive Child Search Alerts to all our Facebook Twitter followers, in the hopes that our followers will share and retweet these times sensitive alerts to their social networks and so forth and so on. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive national child search alerts”.
On May 25th – International Missing Children’s Day – the organization unveiled the following advances in the search for missing children:
1. MCSC signs on as official AMBER Alert broadcaster in Ontario via Poynt platform
MCSC and the Ontario Provincial Police today announced their partnership which will officially register MCSC as a broadcaster with the Ontario AMBER Alert program. MCSC has been signed as an official AMBER Alert broadcaster in Ontario through their Poynt platform push notification system, a technology which was first announced one year ago today on International Missing Children’s Day 2011.
As a major corporate partner with MCSC, Poynt integrated a first-of-its-kind geo-targeted push notification system into their Poynt platform. Through the push notification system, MCSC can target Child Search Alerts directly to Poynt’s millions of users worldwide, with the ability to target entire cities or as precise as 1 kilometer. Child Search Alerts direct Poynt users to MCSC’s mobile website where they can view information about the missing child including pictures, a physical description, background details, information about other potential people who are with the child, as well as the areas where the child is thought to be located.
Since officially launching the technology in September 2011, MCSC has utilized the push notification system on 5 occasions – emergency situations as well as long-term breaking cases – pinpointing information to over 150,000 Canadians within those targeted geographic regions.
MCSC is in the process of connecting with other provinces across the country to offer the same AMBER Alert broadcasting service to those regions.
2. MCSC taps into the Power of Community to create an Online Search Party
MCSC also announced the launch for an innovative online tool – The World’s Most Valuable Social Network (www.valuablenetwork.ca) – to allow anyone with a social network to “donate” their Facebook or Twitter feed to notify friends and followers when a child goes missing in their area. Users can choose to link their social networks for a day, a month or indefinitely and can modify their settings at any time.
When an active missing child investigation takes place in the user’s area, MCSC will push a message directly to the user’s social feed. Rather than relying on MCSC followers sharing information, this cutting-edge innovation created by MCSC’s ad agency, GREY Canada, ensures timely and accurate information is being broadcast directly to the World’s Most Valuable Social Network’s users’ friends and followers. As this system will be reserved for only the most critical situations, on average users can expect only a few alerts in their region each year.
MCSC is urging Canadians to use their social networks for social good by joining the World’s Most Valuable Social Network at www.valuablenetwork.ca and downloading the Poynt platform at www.poynt.com.
“Social networks connect us to thousands of people, ideas and events each day. We want to turn this power in numbers into a collective set of eyes that can help us find a missing child,” said Pick. “We hope to see Canadians get behind us on May 25th and take a simple step that can ultimately save lives.”
Since 1986, MCSC has been reuniting missing children with their searching families through professional investigations, public awareness and family support programs. MCSC is the only non-profit organization in North America that employs an in-house team of former police detectives to work closely with law enforcement while conducting frontline, hands-on investigative and search activities.
The Society will provide police with one more means to broadcast an Amber Alert for child abduction cases through the use of an “app” that can be downloaded to a hand held electronic device. This “app” platform has been developed by Poynt for MCSC to enable them to reach more people faster. Now this technology will be adapted by the Ontario AMBER Alert Program to push Amber Alert notifications to the public who have subscribed to use this free service.