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Indian Police Use WhatsApp to Find Missing Boy

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a child in India goes missing every eight minutes. As shocking as it is, almost 40% of these children haven’t been found. In 2011, West Bengal had the highest number of missing children at 12,000. Madhya Pradesh was next with 7,797 cases, while Delhi had 5,111 cases. These are only the cases that were reportedLuckily, India now has a new way to find these missing children. 

A missing 11-year-old boy has been found after he was spotted by a member of the public who received a WhatsApp alert sent out by police.WhatsApp is largely popular in India because it is easy to use and carries no advertisements. The service is available on Apple, Android and Blackberry platforms and it’s very cheap – for the first year a subscriber pays nothing and thereafter, only 55 rupees (90 cents) every year. WhatsApp is used to connect and communicate with anyone around the world who has downloaded the app, and was recently bought by Facebook for roughly $19 billion. Police used this social network service and sent out the missing child’s picture to many phones in the northern town of Bareilly.

The missing boy’s father, Paramjit Singh, said that his son had left home around 0130 GMT on Sunday for a ride on his bicycle, but did not return for many hours. He added, “We called all our relatives and friends, but couldn’t trace him. So we went to the police for help.”

Senior police officer, SP Singh, told BBC Hindi’s Tushar Banerjee, “We used various ways to publicize the boy’s story. We printed pamphlets and pasted them around Bareilly. We uploaded a digital copy of the poster on WhatsApp and sent it out as a chain message.”

Mr. Singh then added, “By chance, the message reached the right person. The message reached Daanish who had boarded the Doon Express train from Moradabad town. He recognized the boy from the photo.” Dannish, an engineering student, notified the police when he saw the child sitting on the train.

Police say that they are still investigating what happened during the hours that the boy was missing, as they are unsure of how the boy ended up on the train.

This isn’t the first time families have used social networks to trace missing people in other Indian cities. For example, in February of 2014, another missing boy in Uttar Pradesh was traced to the Delhi railway station after his family publicized his case on Facebook and WhatsApp. Even in the United States, families are using social media as a way to garner support.

Technology has become a big part of the lives of many. By learning how to use it for the benefit of others, police officers in India can use technology to find missing children. This incident is one example of a positive outcome of using technology to crowdsource search operations. Since there have been quite a few success stories of families finding their lost loved ones using social media, it should be added to police officers’ toolboxes to maximize the chances of locating children.

[Image Attribute: BBC India]
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