As of 22 July, the Dutch Police no longer intend to use Amber Alerts.
They decided this in consultation with Ferdinand Grapperhaus, now Minister of Justice and Security, the police announced. The police are going to integrate the missing children alerts into Burgernet. Burgernet is a telephone network.
You have to register and can download the app. If the police need help finding someone, you will receive a notification. The police use Burgernet in urgent cases where they have a clear description.
The current Burgernet system has been upgraded to Burgernet 2.0. This became operational in early 2020. Burgernet 2.0 has a wide range and broader functionalities. That includes being able to send countrywide messages containing images.
“It’s an absurd decision,” says Frank Hoen, founder of Amber Alert Netherlands, in a Dutch newspaper. “Burgernet is a very local tool that’s less well-known than Amber Alert. They’ll have to redo everything we built up with Amber Alert.”
He points out that almost 95% of children for which Amber Alerts were sent out were found. But the police say that the change won’t affect the quality of a missing child search. They used Amber Alert on average, only twice a year.
‘Fits with broader initiative
“The integration of the child disappearance alerts into Burgernet fits in with the Ministry of Justice and Security’s broad initiative. It wants to structure and combine alerts,” reads a police press release. “The missing persons’ alerts will soon also be more efficient and cost-effective.”
The decision has, however, been met with disbelief and anger. So much so that Frank started a petition. He wants the police to continue using Amber Alert after the 22 July deadline.
“This jeopardises the search for missing [and abducted] children [who are] in mortal danger,” reads the #RedAMBERAlert (SaveAMBERAlert) petition. “The police are gambling with children’s lives by cancelling AMBER Alert,” states the organisation on their Facebook page.
Unrest in Cabinet
It seems some parties in the Dutch cabinet are also ill-at-ease with the decision. On Thursday, representatives from these parties reminded Minister Grapperhaus of what he said in December 2017. “We’ll continue with AMBER Alert,” he told the House of Representatives at the time.
“The service has proven itself in recent years. It will continue to do so in the future. I want to add that personally, and as a minister, I’m very enthusiastic about AMBER Alert,” Grappenhuis had said.
The other cabinet members want to know why he, despite his enthusiasm, intends to discard AMBER Alert for the much smaller Burgernet. They fear that missing or abducted children reports will get lost. That’s in the stream of messages of all kinds of other subjects on Burgernet.
Translator: Melinda Walraven