Child abduction alert

Keywords: Abduction

The Swiss police launched its Child Abduction Alert on 1 January 2010. The system is activated if a child is thought or known to have been abducted and at risk of harm.

The system was conceived and developed by the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors (CCJPD) in collaboration with the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP). The decision to trigger an alert rests with the appropriate cantonal police force. Once the decision has been taken, the same force is responsible for the content of the alert (i.e. description of people and events) and for determining the time of broadcast.

An alert can be triggered by any Swiss police force at any time if the following criteria are met:

  • A child is known to have been abducted, or there is a strong suspicion that a child may have been abducted
  • There is grave risk of harm to the child’s physical, sexual or psychological integrity
  • Sufficient information is available so that an alert has a chance of success in locating the victim and/or the abductor

In general an alert is not activated if a child is abducted or taken by one of its parents, since it is assumed that it is not at risk of harm. Nor is an alert triggered if a child goes missing and there is no evidence of abduction. Even if all the criteria are met, an alert is not automatically activated if it is thought to put a child at greater risk of harm or to impede rescue measures that are already underway.

The Operations Centre at fedpol is the central office for Switzerland’s Child Abduction Alert. Alerts are broadcast in partnership with the following agencies:

  • SSR-SRG-Idée suisse (radio and television)
  • Federal Roads Office ASTRA
  • Swiss Federal Railways SBB
  • Operators of Zurich, Geneva, Lugano, Basel-Mulhouse and Bern-Belp airports
  • Swiss Press Agency SDA and Keystone
  • Mobile communications providers Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt via text message containing an internet link to the full wording of the alert and a photo of the victim

When a cantonal police force triggers an alert, it transmits the information it wishes to have broadcast to fedpol’s Operations Centre. The Operations Centre drafts the alert in French, German, Italian and English, and forwards the text to its broadcasting partners. At the same time, fedpol activates its call centre to receive information from the public. The Operations Centre also issues international police alerts.

Child abduction alert procedures are drilled at regular intervals; two major drills are carried out each year involving a cantonal police force and all broadcasting partners. This ensures continual improvement of procedures so that in the event of a real emergency the system can be activated quickly and works effectively.

Further information



Alert kidnapping

For further information about the kidnapping alert system

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