FOR THE KIDS: All in the police force should know about NUR Alert
THE issue of whether or not the police had activated NUR (National Urgent Response) Alert in locating missing children came to light recently following two cases -- the murder of 5-year-old Nurul Nadirah Abdullah in Johor Baru on March 1 and the disappearance of 7-year-old Wan Hazim Mohd Kadir in Subang Indah on March 10.
In an interview with the New Sunday Times, Assistant Commissioner Hamidah Yunus, director of the Sexual Crimes, Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Investigations Division (D11) in the Royal Malaysian Police, disclosed that the early warning alert would not be immediately triggered for all cases of missing children.
In fact, she said since the end of 2010, NUR Alert was only triggered in five out of 69 missing children cases. Two children were recovered in Penang last year, one was Nurul and the other two -- 2-year-old Nisha Chandramohan and Lee Xin Ru -- are still missing. The two recovered are Dass Robert, 7, and Santiran Damaraj, 8, who had gone missing on Dec 14 and 13 respectively in Air Itam, Penang.
Hamidah said the rest eventually returned home on their own.
At first, one would be alarmed by this disclosure and wonder why the police had not activated NUR Alert for all missing children. On closer scrutiny of the numbers of those who had safely returned to their families, one would know that the police had good reason to not activate it.
I believe that those who returned to their families were runaways.
The NUR Alert, which the police took charge of from the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry in January last year, is modelled on the highly successful AMBER (America Missing Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert, which was put in place following the brutal murder of an abducted child, 10-year-old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas, in 1996. Her killer was never found but after all these years, detectives are still assigned to the case.
For an alert to be activated, it should be confirmed that among other things, the child (below 12 for NUR Alert and 17 for AMBER Alert) is not a subject of domestic dispute or a runaway.
I believe the Malaysian police are par excellence in solving cases of runaways. They seem to be always spot-on in smelling a rat where cases involve teenagers.
You read all the time reports detailing the start of their disappearance until police confirmed that they had actually run away to be with their boyfriends, to have fun or both.
The point is -- the police solve the cases. I cheer the police for this. But not in cases of young children abducted by persons unknown. The statistics on them speak for themselves.
Federal Criminal Investigation Department director Datuk Mohd Bakri Zinin, in response to concern over the issue, confirmed that the alert was not activated for all cases of missing children and only when the risk posed was "immediate and that the missing person was vulnerable or may have been a victim of a serious crime".
He said the approach used in Malaysia was similar to AMBER Alert, and also cautioned against overuse as this could cause the public to become desensitised to alerts when they were issued.
The initiative to put in place NUR (formerly called NURIN: Nationwide Urgent Response Information Network) Alert began soon after the murdered body of 8-year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin was found in Petaling Jaya, nearly a month after she was reported missing near her home in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur on Aug 20, 2010.
For Nurin, help came a little too late or not at all. In Amber's case, local law enforcement had information that might have helped to locate her shortly after she was abducted, but had no means to distribute it. That was why the AMBER Alert system was developed.
That was why NURIN (which was later named NUR) Alert was developed -- to locate abducted children and bring them to safety by using the media and other resources to promptly publicise details about an abducted child's disappearance.
It is a partnership between the police, the press and the public. AMBER Alert in the United States has been so fine-tuned that it incorporates available technology. Other countries have adopted or adapted the model.
In the United Kingdom, there is the Child Rescue Alert system, first introduced by the Sussex police in 2002, and in 2010, further improved and efficient, CRA was relaunched.The CRA system is compatible with other European Child Alert systems, so that concurrent alerts can be launched across the European Union.
The NUR Alert is not rocket science but every policeman and woman must know that it is there at their disposal when kids -- not teen runaways with domestic problems -- go missing. It is to assist police in the swift rescue of abducted children by disseminating information to the media and other bodies that sit on the NUR Alert committee.
Bakri should not worry about overusing NUR Alert unless he is expecting scores of young children to go missing or be abducted. Still, we can never be desensitised by reports of missing children because at the back of our heads -- that child could be ours, or someone we love.