Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 21, 2002

'MAILE' alert system for child abductions a reality

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

After a year of planning by Honolulu police, the Missing Child Center of Hawai'i, state Civil Defense and local broadcasters, Honolulu has a new tool for finding abducted children.

The MAILE Alert program will use the state Civil Defense emergency broadcast system to transmit information about a missing child, the suspect and the suspect's vehicle through television and radio announcements. State highway signs will also be used to tell drivers to listen to the radio.

But don't expect the alert to be used often, if at all. Missing Persons Officer Phil Camero, who developed the program, said stranger abductions in Hawai'i are rare. "We pray we don't have to use it," he said.

MAILE — short for Minor Abducted in Life-Threatening Emergency — is named for Maile Gilbert, a 6-year-old who was abducted from a party in Kailua and murdered in 1985. Her parents, Tip and Jenny Gilbert, have been actively involved in developing the program.

Since his daughter was taken, Tip Gilbert said they have worked with volunteers to assist police in child-abduction cases. "We're there to stop Maile from ever being taken again, because when I go out there I am looking for Maile. And it hurts just as bad every time a child is missing," he said.

The murder of 11-year-old Kahealani Indreginal last week hit close to home, and hurt more knowing it happened so close to the launch of the MAILE Alert, Gilbert added.

However, Police Chief Lee Donohue said the MAILE Alert System would not have helped Kahealani, who did not fit the criteria used to determine whether to activate the alert.

In general, Donohue said the missing children will be 10 years old or younger, although older children will be considered on a case-by-case basis. There must also be sufficient information to indicate that the child may have been abducted and may be in immediate danger of serious bodily injury or death. There must also be sufficient descriptive information about the child, abductor and abductor's vehicle to believe that an immediate alert will help to find the child and abductor.

"We're going to be very strict about the standards. We don't want this system to be abused," Donohue said. "We don't want to be accused of crying wolf whenever a child is missing."

The alert will not be activated for runaway or custodial interference cases, unless the investigation indicates the child may be in danger of serious bodily injury or death.

Camero called the MAILE Alert "an incredible tool to galvanize the State of Hawai'i," noting that in 75 percent of cases where a child is murdered, it occurs within three hours of abduction.