Alert sounds for missing children

Greek authorities are expected to adopt by the end of the year the Amber Alert plan used in the United States to help detect missing children after more than 350 youngsters disappeared from their homes in Greece in the last 17 months. Constantinos Yiannopoulos, president of the children’s rights watchdog the Child’s Smile, said yesterday that initial coordination efforts for the alert system will be undertaken by the group. The plan, established in the USA in 1996, involves police informing television and radio broadcasters about a missing child. The broadcasters then interrupt their programs to transmit the Amber Alert about the child. Messages may also appear on highway signs and on mobile phones via text messages. The system is considered to deter abductions, since experts say there have been incidents where kidnappers have released children after hearing the alert on the radio. «[The problem of] missing children is an international daily social phenomenon that affects all of us. It does not have to happen to us to make us sensitive to the issue,» the Child’s Smile said. The procedure has been successful in the USA. Authorities claim the number of missing children who are found has risen significantly. According to Greek police, 125 boys and 253 girls have gone missing since the start of 2005. «Most cases regard children who leave home on their own or are taken away by one of their parents who ignore court rulings,» Yiannopoulos said. Volunteers handed out balloons and flowers yesterday at Syntagma Square in central Athens to mark the occasion of International Missing Children’s Day. More than 2,000 children go missing around the world every day.