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Oxford abduction prompts widespread concern

This post has been written by Geoff Newiss, Chief Executive,  Action Against Abduction

Last week, news of the abduction and rape of a teenage girl in Oxford made national headlines. The 14 year-old, walking to school, was forced into a car on a busy street in the Summertown area of the city. She was raped by two men, and found over three hours later approximately one mile away asking for help.   

Every day there are reports of child abductions by a stranger in the UK. The vast majority are attempted abductions involving a would-be offender trying to lure a child into a car or a secluded area. Some require the victim to physically struggle to get away. Of those cases that do result in a child been taken, most last a matter of minutes rather than hours, and involve inappropriate touching or indecent exposure. This is what makes the abduction in Oxford so concerning; the severity of the sexual assault that the victim and her family will have to struggle to come to terms with. 

Yet the impact of these events is felt across whole communities and, indeed, across the whole country. Parents who have just taken that enormous step to let their children start walking to school on their own face a wall of doubt. If it can happen in Oxford, surely it can happen anywhere? Re-assuring parents that such terrible offences are very rare is an unenviable task at times like these. What psychologists call the availability heuristic (the mind's ability to quickly grasp at high profile examples as evidence of frequent occurrence) has just been turbo-charged. It will take time for fears to calm and a ‘normal’ sense of risk to return.

However, there is one step that must be taken urgently. And that is to once-and-for-all find an alternative to ‘Stranger Danger’ – an approach to child safety that comes from the 1970s and just doesn’t work. Yes some abductions will be committed by a stranger, but getting children to distinguish between strangers and non-strangers is a futile place to start when trying to teach them how to stay safe. There is plenty of evidence – summarised in our Beyond Stranger Danger report – that children warned to stay away from strangers think that the message only really applies to mean and nasty looking people. And, of course, some of the most recent, tragic and high profile abductions of children in the UK have been committed by people known to them.  

Action Against Abduction is in the process of developing a brand new approach. We’re aiming to pilot new teaching resources early in 2017 so that we can make them widely available later next year. More information is available online. Please help us to achieve this by joining our Safe, Not Scared campaign.     


NSL supports Child Rescue Alert through staff sign-ups

Child Rescue Alert is only as effective as the number of people registered. When a child goes missing it’s vital that as many people as possible are on the lookout, reporting sightings and helping to get them found safely as quickly as possible. All that is needed is for the public to register to receive the free alerts via email or text message. It’s a moment’s micro-volunteering that could save a child’s life. 

Staff at services management company NSL are being encouraged to register for Child Rescue Alerts with their phone number or email address. Many NSL staff are uniquely placed to really help when the crisis of a high-risk missing child, or even an abduction, occurs. By keeping an eye out in their area and reporting any sightings, they might be able to save a child’s life.  

Jo Youle, Chief Executive of the charity Missing People, which manages Child Rescue Alert in partnership with the National Crime Agency and Groupcall, said: “Time and again at the charity we see communities rally together when a local child goes missing. Child Rescue Alert is thankfully not issued often – it’s for the most vulnerable of children. We are asking everyone to join us and register to be alerted as soon as possible if a child goes missing in their communities.”


Royal Mail supports Child Rescue Alert with national postmark

Royal Mail has today launched a new postmark which will significantly bolster the drive to grow the number of people registered to receive Child Rescue Alerts. The postmark will appear on post for a week beginning today and is one of a number of ways in which Royal Mail, the 2016 funder of the system, is supporting the Child Rescue Alert campaign fortnight.

Over 120,000 of the company's postmen and women are registered to receive Child Rescue Alerts on the rare occasion they are issued when a missing child's life is thought by the police to be in immediate danger. This means that many more eyes and ears are on the ground looking for a missing child when an alert is issued. 

Gary Grange, Community Investment Manager at Royal Mail said: "Royal Mail is dedicated to supporting the communities that we serve. We hope that this postmark will help highlight the campaign and encourage people to sign up to receive Child Rescue Alerts".


Stephen Fry leads campaign to make every second count when a child is reported missing

Stephen Fry is urging members of the public to help save the lives of high risk missing children as part of a two-week long national campaign launching today. People are asked to register for free Child Rescue Alerts, activated when a child has gone missing and police believe their life is in imminent danger.

Fry appears in a short animation and major outdoor advertising campaign launched today, developed with pro bono support from true crime network Crime + Investigation® (CI)  and outdoor ad serving platform OpenLoop. A comic-book version of Fry reminds members of the public that you don’t need to be a superhero to save the day; simply having eyes and ears on the ground after a child goes missing may help save their life.

To register text HERO and your postcode to 85080. Registration costs a standard network text message rate. Obtain bill payer’s permission. Customer care 0208 392 4571. Once registered, it is then free to receive Child Rescue Alerts. 


Bob Geldof and Fiona Phillips urge public to sign up to Child Rescue Alert

Bob Geldof and Fiona Phillips today joined forces to raise awareness of Child Rescue Alert, the nationwide system designed to alert the public as quickly as possible to an abduction or a high risk child disappearance.

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Bob Geldof co-founder of Groupcall, speaking at Bett 2016, the world’s leading event for learning technology. “If your child went missing and their life was in immediate danger you would want to get the message out in minutes. If you care about children’s safety please sign up today at”.


2016 Child Rescue Alert funder announced

To mark the one-year anniversary of its partnership with Child Rescue Alert partner Missing People, Royal Mail has announced that it is contributing £50,000 to fund the national Child Rescue Alert system in 2016.

Royal Mail will be funding the Child Rescue Alert service for a year, starting from January 2016. It will ensure the operation of a 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year system, for one year. The specific criteria and urgent nature of Child Rescue Alerts means that the charity’s expert helpline team must be trained and ready to issue an alert at any time.


Child Rescue Alert Conference

On Thursday 26th November 2015, the National Crime Agency (NCA) is inviting representatives from across UK policing to a one-day conference focused on developing knowledge and understanding of the Child Rescue Alert (CRA).

The CRA seeks to ensure that not a minute is wasted in the search for a high-risk missing child. Investigating police forces can quickly issue details of the missing child through the media and other channels, enabling members of the public to be on the lookout. This event will introduce enhanced CRA options now available due to the support of Missing People and Groupcall, and to assist police officers in making effective and informed decisions about whether it is appropriate to launch the CRA.


We are delighted to announce today the new partnership between Child Rescue Alert and Facebook. This huge step forward for the Child Rescue Alert system will harness the power of the social media giant’s community when a child’s life is believed to be at immediate risk. With over half of the UK population registered to Facebook, today’s announcement means that Child Rescue Alerts will have the potential to reach a far greater audience than ever before.

This innovative partnership will see Facebook utilise its latest technology to target alerts to specific geographical areas. Like the established email and SMS format of Child Rescue Alert, the Facebook format will feature a photo of the missing child along with a description, location of the abduction and any other available information that can be provided to the public to aid in the search. Once issued, the alert will instantly appear on the Facebook newsfeed, with the alert’s reach increased by ‘shares’ from Facebook users.


When a child goes missing and their life is believed to be at risk, it’s important that there are as many eyes and ears to the ground as possible to increase the chances of the child returning safe and well. That’s why Missing People holds regular Child Rescue Alert sign-up days across the UK.

Child Rescue Alert sign-up days can be held almost anywhere and commonly take place in busy town centres, at sporting events or fêtes. Equally, they can be held in the workplace or at local community centres. At these events, representatives of Missing People speak to members of the public about Child Rescue Alert and why it’s useful, encouraging people to sign up. There is also the option sign up to receive future news about Missing People and some of their ongoing and future appeals.

At one recent sign-up event in Cowley, Oxford, a sign-up event was combined with a bake sale for members of the public. On that day alone, Missing People spoke to many about the importance Child Rescue Alert and signed up over 100 people to the system. To date, Missing People has organised 19 Child Rescue Alert sign-up events, which has contributed to the current number of sign-ups, which stands at 309,000, and helped raise awareness of the system. The charity has recently been lucky enough to partner with Barclays branches in the South East and London, sending volunteers across the area to join Barclays staff in their branches to raise awareness about Child Rescue Alert.

If you would like to find out more about how to organise a Child Rescue Alert sign-up day in your community, contact


Today, International Missing Children’s Day, marks the first anniversary of the launch of the enhanced Child Rescue Alert. The system is managed in partnership between Missing People, CEOP, a command of the National Crime Agency, and GroupCall. It has been made possible thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund.

Over the past year, the Child Rescue Alert partners have worked hard to raise awareness of the system by consistently building its reach through major new partnerships and by encouraging members of the public to sign up at over 65 sign up events and through high profile national media coverage. There are now 287,000 people signed up to receive the alerts.


On 10 March 2015 the first, national Child Rescue Alert in the UK, was issued using the new system.  A 14 year old girl went missing from her home in Nottinghamshire. The Police ordered an alert be issued and the system went into action.  Groupcall’s dedicated software ensured that every subscriber to Child Rescue Alert received the alert. The alert appeared on Facebook pages and Twitter feeds and on the hand held devices of 124,000 Royal Mail postal workers.

Thankfully the child was found safe and well less than 24 hours later.  Jo Youle Missing People Chief Executive said : “The Child Rescue Alert process went seamlessly and it's great that the child was found. Child Rescue Alert would not be possible without the National Crime Agency, Groupcall players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Royal Mail, LexisNexis, BHS, Press Association and Child Rescue Alert Patrons.”

18/11/2014:  124,000 postmen and women across the country will be assisting Child Rescue Alert to locate vulnerable missing children, significantly increasing the number of people committed to helping to find them. Click here to find out more.

13/11/2014:  Royal Mail have announced that they will be supporting Child Rescue Alert by sending alerts to postal workers via their handheld PDA devices.  Click here for more.

12/11/2014:  Following ITV1 Good Morning Britain's recent campaign to raise awareness of Child Rescue Alert, almost 70,000 people downloaded the Child Rescue Alert app or registered to receive alerts.  Click here to see why.

If your child went missing wouldn’t you want the world to stop and look for them? A Child Rescue Alert is activated when a child is known to have been abducted or their life is believed to be at immediate risk. Every second counts and your support is vital.

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