The Costa Rican congress is looking to debate the topic of approving a missing child alert system to be known as SAN, and the bill has already passed a first round of voting.
The alert, which is very similar to the AMBER alert in the United States, was originally presented by Fabricio Alvarado and Humberto Vargas. The alert would require TV and phone companies to issue reports of missing children free of charge, and to report any information in regards to who might have taken the child for free, as well. The new law would also eliminate a 24 hour waiting period required before activating a missing child protocol with the police department.
The bill passed its first round voting with 40 votes pro and 1 vote against the new law. The single opponent for the new law, Ottón Solís, because he believes it is overly bureaucratic. Ottón says that same system can easily be put in place by the child welfare organization, and that forcing law enforcement and other government offices to comply in the case of missing children would be costly to the national budget.
The new law would also be responsible for establishing a new multi-agency grouped commission that would include the National Children’s Trust, the Judicial Investigation Police, the Public Security Ministry, the Immigration Administration, the National Agency for Communication, the Prosecutor’s Office and the National Council for Children and Adolescents.
AMBER alerts in the states have proved to be a very effective system in helping to return children to their families. Of some 36 cases of AMBER alerts filed in Maryland in 2003, all but 2 resulted in the return of children to their family. In all, AMBER alerts have proved successful across the board, but still have opponents who would like to change the system. The system does not have a 100% track record, and many say that it is too costly.
If the bill passes all rounds of voting, it must be signed into action by President Luis Guillermo Solís and be published in the official newspaper La Gaceta before becoming a law.