Text message system launched by police force to help find missing children

Durham Police has today launched a new communications system to help local children who have gone missing.

Monday, 21st March 2016, 1:22 pm
Updated Monday, 21st March 2016, 1:55 pm
PCSO Marie Garfoot with (left) Ian Shanks from Durham County Council's Education Services and David Kerry, headteacher of Benfieldside Primary School near Consett

The force says that more often than not the child missing is located quickly, but when this doesn’t happen, all appropriate police resources are deployed including Air Support, Dog Section and dependant on the geographical area and nature of the incident, Marine Unit and Mountain Rescue.

Consett Neighbourhood Policing Team has recently been working with schools and Durham County Council in co-ordinating a project where the missing child’s school use their existing text system to ask parents and carers if they have seen the missing child.

If a child is reported missing and the police are unable to locate them quickly, the police communications centre will contact a teacher at that child’s school who has access to text system.

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A text message will then be sent out asking all parents or guardians registered to the system at that particular school to call the police if they know the whereabouts of the missing child.

Parents and carers are asked to only make contact if they have information about the whereabouts of the child, so that any calls with information can be taken and dealt with swiftly.

Once the child is located a further message will be sent to make parents and carers aware of this.

The idea came from Durham PCSO Marie Garfoot.

She said: “I came up with the idea a few months ago when we were trying to locate a missing child; she was at a school friend’s house, a friend that her parents weren’t aware of.

“If this system had been in place the parents of the friend could have informed police of the missing child’s location minimising the trauma to the missing child’s family.

“If the missing child is not at a school friends’ houses it also speeds up our enquiries In this kind of situation every second counts towards getting that child safely home."

Marie has spent the past few months working closely with all schools in the force area on the idea, collecting information, training relevant people and presenting her idea to various agencies.

The scheme has been well received by all involved and is now ready to be put into practice.

Ian Shanks, pupil casework manager at Durham County Council, said: “Children going missing is an extremely distressing time for families with children and young people vulnerable while unaccounted for and time of the essence in finding them

“We are delighted to be working with Durham Constabulary on this innovative new approach which should improve the speed at which missing children and young people can be traced.”