Smartphones are the latest weapons in the campaign to save abducted children in Australia following the launch of a new app.
US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich hosted the launch of the phone app, developed by the Australian Federal Police with the support of the FBI, at his Canberra residence a short time ago.
It allows parents to store crucial data, including pictures of their children, on their phones ready to be shared with police in the event tragedy strikes.
Ambassador Bleich said America's campaign to save abducted children had really begun on May 25, 1979, when Etan Patz, a six-year-old from New York, disappeared.
The case had sparked national outrage. Patz was the first child to have his face posted on milk cartons.
The smart phone app is an extension of that thinking. With 75 per cent of abducted children murdered by their captors within the first three hours of being taken it is essential to get as much information out as quickly as possible.
May 25 has now been designated missing children's day internationally.
Using the app, which can be downloaded by Googling ‘child ID' or through i-tunes, parents can preload photos, contact details, descriptions and other information onto their smart phones.
The information stays on the phone until, in the event a child disappears, they share it with the authorities so it can be circulated as widely as possible.
The data base can be updated with new photos and information as the child grows.Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Tony Negus, said the system, already operating with considerable success in the US, was totally secure.
"The information is stored on your phone until it is needed,'' he said. "I encourage all Australian families to download the app.''
He said more than 130,000 Americans had downloaded the US version of the software already with the FBI indicating it had been of assistance in a number of cases.
"Almost 20,000 Australians under the age of 18 go missing each year,'' he said.
"This can be for many different reasons and, thankfully, most are located in one week - but imagine the anguish of that week for their families.''
Ambassador Bleich said the US decision to make Australia the first country it shared the "sophisticated and sensitive'' source code that made the app possible with underlined the strength of the alliance between the two nations.
He said that as a parent of teenage children himself he was "particularly grateful'' for a new technology that would make them safer.
"I would like to hope it could make them do their homework too, but we may have to save that for another day.’’
In addition to allowing parents to pre-load information in an easily accessible and shareable form, the app also contains information and safety tips including check lists and contact numbers.
The Daniel Morcombe Foundation is also working on a phone app to help protect children.
"The two (apps) will be complementary; they will not be in competition with each other,’’ Commissioner Negus said.