Johannesburg - Fifteen children are reported missing in Gauteng every month, but the figure could be higher as many cases go unreported, especially in rural areas.
Previous figures from Missing Children SA (MCSA) show that at least one child is reported as missing every five hours in South Africa, with child kidnapping, abductions and human trafficking rising each day.
National co-ordinator of MCSA, Bianca van Aswegen, said 16 151 children were reported missing over a 20-year period, of whom an estimated 4 000 have never been found.
MCSA does, however, boast a success rate of 77% of children returned safely to their homes. When a child goes missing, the first 24 hours are critical and as time passes, the statistical likelihood of finding the child alive drops drastically. The good news is that there is no longer a waiting period to report a missing person.
SAPS spokesperson Colonel Athendla Mathe said current figures weren’t fixed and many factors had to be be considered.
“On average, one third of the children reported missing in Gauteng, are found or return home voluntarily soon after being reported missing,” she said.
Nelson Mandela once famously said: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
“If Madiba were here today, he would no doubt agree that our country should be gravely concerned about the state of its soul. We deal with between 60 and 90 cases per month,” said Van Aswegen.
MCSA recently partnered with leading outdoor media owner, Tractor Outdoor, which offered up its country-wide digital billboard network, free of charge, and which reaches more than 30 million consumers each month.
Commercial director at Tractor Outdoor, Remi Du Preez said the hope was that the billboards would allow for the rapid communication of new missing child alerts to key areas, as well as high-traffic locations, such as highways and petrol stations.
“There is nothing in this world more distressing to a family or a community than a child going missing. We approached MCSA with the intent of creating a digital channel that would facilitate fast-to-market communication close to areas where the child in question was last seen.
“This approach has been very successful in the US; media owners and authorities collaborate closely when matters of national concern arise, and we wanted to replicate this model closer to home.”
With the use of the electronic billboards, MCSA can swiftly insert important details, such as the child’s name, age, image and area where they were last seen into the template, and share it with Tractor Outdoor’s content management team.
“Our team immediately upload the creative and schedule the campaign roll-out, and the alert is flighted within minutes of its receipt. Due to the dynamic nature of our systems, it generally takes less than five minutes for our system to identify available inventory and then upload content for flighting. As time passes, this is of extreme importance in missing children cases; this fast turnaround plays a crucial role,” added Du Preez.
Van Aswegen said the partnership with Tractor Outdoor could not have come at a better time for the organisation.
“Over the past few months, there has been a dramatic and frightening spike in the number of child kidnappings, abductions, human trafficking cases and missing children. We’ve been inundated with new reports daily.
“Now with the increased and far-reaching exposure that we’re able to give these cases via Tractor’s network – and with each additional eyeball on our alerts – we improve the chances of bringing a child home,” she said.
What to do when your child goes missing:
– Try not to panic.
– Do not wait 24 hours to report your missing child.
– Get a responsible person to stay at your house while you’re at the police station or searching for your child. This person can take messages if someone calls about the child’s disappearance, or if the child returns home.
– Go to your nearest police station and take a recent photograph of the child with you. Make sure that the photograph is of good quality so that your child will be easily identifiable.
– Give a good description of what the child was wearing, their last whereabouts and any information that may help the police.
– Complete a SAPS 55 (A) form which safeguards the police against false or hoax reports. This form also gives the police permission to distribute the photos and information of the missing child.
– Make sure the police give you a reference number and a contact name and number of the SAPS officer(s) assigned to the investigation.
– Remember that if your child returns home, you should go to the police station to report that the child is safe and let MCSA know that your child has returned home safely.