The Jasmine Alert Program celebrated its 6 year anniversary today. The Program is Belize’s only Child Kidnapping Emergency Warning System, which was formed on July 3s1st, 2012. Today, a brief ceremony was held in Belize city, not only to celebrate the program’s 6th year in existence, but also to strengthen the ties between the program and various social partners. The ceremony was also held to recognize the program’s newest financial supporters, 4Life Team’s local executives. Our media colleagues in Belize City spoke to Patrick Menzies, the founder and director of the program, who told us more about today’s ceremony.
Patrick Menzies, Director of Jasmine Alert: Yes, this is our 6th anniversary and it is also to proclaim the Jasmine Alert and the For Life Agency. The For Life Team Rhino Team is in Belmopan and is an organization that is based out of the US. So because part of what For Life does is social, to give back to the society, we now have funding coming in from For Life Research. So that’s one of the things that we did and the other important thing was there is a lot of changes of the guard in both, in BTL especially and so we had to, we have a new agreement between BTL and our organization. Also, solidifying of the agreement between us and Smart, so we wanted to get that out there and I met with Commissioner Whylie. So we are looking at making sure that our agreement can be more solid and more effective, the work of the Police Department from here and out.
When asked about the success that the Program has seen over the past 6 years, Menzies referred to an incident in January of 2017 when the first ever international Jasmine Alert was issued for the kidnapping of a child rescued in Mexico in the month of May.
Patrick Menzies, Director of Jasmine Alert: Well, I would say the biggest win is that we’ve not had another child kidnapped, maimed or raped that we know of. I mean may be there was a case that was never reported, we have no clue, but many cases have been reported to us. We’ve had many cases where the police did great jobs, they never got to the media, we didn’t even have to call an alert because the police did a very good job of investigating and finding the child. But our biggest case, like I mentioned earlier our biggest case which happened in Belize and was negative because the police dropped the ball in that one. But the Police Department and the Immigration Department and others in Mexico worked with us and we were able to for the first time get an international alert. Actually it wasn’t just Mexico, they were going to an international alert for a missing child, but we were able to verify that the child was in Mexico, but thought the child would be taken to the US. And so we got the Child back, it was a serious ordeal but we got her back on 9th of May last year. She went missing I believe it was the 6th of January, right before mothers’ day. But again the police department and the different departments in Mexico even broke with protocols to help us for that case.
According to Menzies, the program is now working on placing coordinators in various schools. These coordinators will be able to issue real time Jasmine Alerts to authorities and the media, via Whatsapp.
Patrick Menzies, Director of Jasmine Alert: We are now merging relationship another marriage with the Education Department or Ministry. We are working with schools and now we are putting together the co-ordinators from schools. And so if a child goes missing in a local school, that coordinator can announce that in the WhatsApp group immediately and that would be disseminated across the country immediately. So if there is some perpetrator going around and a school saw it, and a kid reports it to the teacher, then automatically that can get out and we will have and we ask you to please contact us and give us contact info within your different media agencies so we can know who to add to the WhatsApp group. So if a kid went missing at Holy rRedeemer, within milliseconds you would know at your media house that it occurred. So everybody will be working in a close relationship and that I believe is one of our biggest things besides the financial support we are getting from For Life Agency, Belmopan.