Missing children: what must police do?

2008-03-13 00:00

The parents of two murdered childen have said police did not help immediately when they reported their daughters missing, but police procedure and protocol in response to reports of missing children has been in place since 1996 and police are regularly updated on correct procedures to follow.

Following two recent incidents — in Merrivale last week, and at Honeydew in Gauteng last weekend, in which two children reported missing to police were later found assaulted and murdered — the DA called for a nationwide protocol on how police should respond when a child is reported missing.

In reply yesterday, acting National Commissioner Timothy Williams said the SAPS has a Missing Persons Bureau at national level and in seven provinces, which operates on a 24-hour basis.

"The success rate of the SAPS in locating missing children is 86%," he said.

"We as police management do everything in our power, using all the resources at our disposal, to combat [kidnapping]."

In Pietermaritzburg, Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram confirmed that police follow a set procedure and that any SAPS staff found to be negligent would be punished. Once a member of the public reports a person missing, the policeman on duty has to give the person an SAPS 55 (A) form to fill in.

This calls for extensive information on the missing person and a photograph, if available.

The person then has to sign an "Acceptance of Liability" document authorising certain aspects of the investigation and the police must provide a reference or circulation number and the name of the investigating officer.

Police then notify radio control and, depending on the circumstances of the case, start investigations at the place where the missing person was last seen.

Budhram emphasised that a missing child should be reported immediately, and that there is no waiting period whatsoever.

"The quicker it is reported, the better are our chances of finding the child," he said.

Guidelines and helpful information can be found on the police site:

http://www.missingkids.co.za

and at Childline on http://www.saspcan.org.za/chldlne.htm

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