UK & World News
April Abduction First Test For Rescue Alerts
Hours before the disappearance of April Jones gripped the country, the first police publicity blitz to try to find her was aimed at the media only in mid-Wales.
It was done through the Child Rescue Alert system, developed in the wake of a previous high-profile abduction.
Dyfed-Powys Police are the first force to use it since its introduction.
News flashes are used to interrupt local radio and programmes. They are also carried on motorway gantry displays and texted to the mobile phones of individuals who have signed up to the project.
The flashes give the public brief descriptions of the victim, suspect and vehicle in the hope they might still be in the area.
Their success, of course, relies on the information being sent out fast.
In the April Jones case, the alarm was reportedly not raised for several hours, but there may have been a good reason for that.
Police won't use the alert system unless there is firm detail to give out so the public can look for something specific.
They also need to be sure the child is in imminent danger of serious harm or death.
Child Rescue Alert was based on the Amber Alert system in the United States.
It was pioneered by Sussex Police after the abduction and murder in 2000 of eight-year-old Sarah Payne, whose mother Sara helped develop it.
But when the force first tried it out - over the disappearance of a girl in Brighton - the text technology failed and it was of limited use. Fortunately, the missing child was found sleeping in a neighbour's home.