MAILE Alert available for abducted children

Hawaii’s new child abduction announcement program — the MAILE Alert, modeled after the nationwide AMBER Alert  — officially came online today. A partnership between the Honolulu Police Department, the State Civil Defense network, and broadcast media outlets, the MAILE Alert plan aims to maximize the public’s assistance in the first vital hours following the abduction of a child.

A 1997 study in Washington State concluded that three quarters of the children murdered by non-family members are killed within the first three hours of their abduction, but that there is typically a delay of more than two hours in making the initial missing child report.

Under the MAILE Alert program, police will notify the public about a child abduction with information on the child, suspect, and suspect’s vehicle. This information will be sent to broadcasters using the State Civil Defense emergency alert system, and displayed on the State Department of Transportation’s freeway signs. Anyone with information that might be helpful will be urged to call the MAILE Alert hotline at 540-TIPS (540-8477) or toll free at 1-866-HPD-LOST (1-866-473-5678). The hotline is only operational when a MAILE Alert is issued.

HPD officials note that there are a number of requirements that need to be met in a reported abduction before a MAILE Alert is issued. Last week’s abduction and subsequent murder of 11-year-old Kahealani Indreginal would have not qualified, even if the system had been operational at the time.

For an abduction case to qualify for a MAILE Alert, the child should generally be 10 years of age or younger, there should be clear indications that the child was abducted and is in immediate danger of serious injury or death, and there should be sufficient information about the child, abductor, and the abductor’s vehicle, if applicable, to ensure the alert can generate useful leads. Notably, the MAILE Alert is generally not for runaways or custodial interference cases, unless there is an immediate risk of the child’s injury or death.

The MAILE Alert is named in memory of Maile Gilbert, who was six years old in August 1985 when she was abducted from a party in Kailua and murdered. MAILE is also an acronym for Minor Abducted in Life-threatening Emergency.

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