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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, September 9, 2002

'Maile' alert system good plan for Hawai'i

The majority of child "abductions" involve some form of family dispute. Typically, a noncustodial parent or other relative will try to gain control of a child.

These events, while traumatic and serious, do not generally portend physical harm to the child.

But there are occasions when the abductor is either unknown or is clearly a stranger who might have an intent to harm or kill the child.

In these cases, particularly, it is crucial that the search for the child begin immediately. Federal officials say most cases of killing or serious harm happen within the first three hours after the kidnapping.

What's needed is immediate and widespread community notification that a child is missing.

For that reason, it is encouraging that local law enforcement and government officials are working on a plan to use the existing Emergency Alert System to notify the community when a child has been kidnapped and appears to be in imminent danger.

The local system, nick-named "MAILE" Alert after 6-year-old Maile Gilbert who was abducted and murdered in 1985, would be modeled on the "Amber Alert" system used in other jurisdictions.

In this system, radio, television, newspaper and other media (including popular Web sites, we would imagine) would be alerted about the missing child and provided as many details as possible.

It is important that this system not be overburdened with false alarms. But used wisely, it could be a valuable tool to save lives and avoid unnecessary grief.