Missing kid reports will trigger cell phone alerts

When a minor is reported missing, law enforcement and the state telephone company will send a message and photo to 4 million residents, the security ministry said Monday.

The minister,  Gustavo Mata, met with  Fabricio Alvarado, a lawmaker of the Partido Restauración Nacional, who is promoting the legislation related to the concept.

The Ministerio de Seguridad Pública said that Mata also talked with a security chief at the  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad who promised to forward the report of disappearances to 4 million mobile telephone users.

This is the first step in an effort to set up a system of alerts when youngsters vanish.

The system is modeled on those of other countries, and the responsibility for directing the search rests with the judicial police and the  Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, according to an outline of the legislation.

In the last few days five persons have been reported missing by the Judicial Investigating Organization. All were adults and ranged in age from 19 to 49 years. Three were reported missing in the last few days but one person, a 24-year-old man has been missing since March 6, the judicial announcements said.

The judicial agency routinely issues missing persons bulletins, but there is no notice when the person turns up.

The legislature has approved a bill that would formalize a system of alerts when a minor disappears.  The measure is No. 19.356, which creates a committee of public and private entities that is supposed to coordinate the search for a missing child.

The measure is based on one that was passed in Guatemala. A summary also references the AMBER child abduction alert system in use in the United States.

The committee is being called the Comisión Coordinadora Nacional del Sistema de Alerta para la Protección de la Niñez Costarricense.

The bill summary said that between January and July 2014 some 168 youngsters less than 18 years of age were reported missing in Costa Rica.

The Judicial Investigating Organization already has internal rules for an immediate response when a child 12 or younger is reported missing. The summary said children older than 12 are considered runaways unless there are signs of violence.

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