Police to stop use of AMBER Alerts in favor of Dutch system Burgernet
Dutch authorities will soon replace the Amber Alert and Missing Child Alert bulletin systems with Burgernet, a separate citizen warning message service already in use for nearly thirty years. The decision was made by police together with Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus in order to provide a more coherent, centralized service for all calls for assistance, whether it be warnings for criminal suspects on the run, requests for information about adults who disappeared, or missing children.
Police stated that the current quality and function of missing children reports will remain the same. Starting from July 22, 2021, however, they will show up in the Burgernet system.
The Burgernet system sends out a text or voice message to all people who register for it in the event that a person goes missing or is being sought after by police. Since January 2020, Burgernet also sends pictures along with descriptions of the people they are looking for, similar to the bulletins for missing children.
Not everyone agrees with the removal of the AMBER Alert, which has been use in the Netherlands for over 12 years. Co-founder of AMBER alert, Frank Hoen, says, “It’s disappointing that the police do not take into account the enormous breakthroughs we have achieved in the past years when it comes to locating missing children. We saved the lives of countless boys and girls.”
The system was initially named for Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old girl who was abducted and killed in the United States in 1996. Officially, the system is an acronym short for “America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response”.
An AMBER Alert differs from a Missing Child Alert in that the former indicates police believe the subject’s life is in immediate danger. Hoen worries that Burgernet will not paint the same pictures in the public’s mind as the AMBER Alert does. “When the term ‘AMBER alert’ is mentioned people know that a missing child is in danger”, Hoen says. “We are gravely worried that with the disappearance of the AMBER alert, the collaboration between the public and the police will also vanish.”
The police say the move is a step towards gaining more control over reports on alerts and a step away from individual market parties. Police say by bringing all missing person alerts under one roof both time and money will be saved in the future.
AMBER Alert Netherlands estimates that 95 percent of the Dutch public knows what their alerts are, and the seriousness of them. Since November 2008, 30 AMBER Alerts and 1,010 Missing Child Alerts have been issued. The child was found safe in 94 percent of cases, often with the assistance of the public.