When the news about a missing child spreads across media and social networks in Serbia, almost without exception, a wave of anxiety, assumptions, and the need to identify the perpetrators and underlying causes, is prompted. A part of the public, with the wholehearted support of certain media, succumbs to panic. Consequently, reminders of the tragically ended cases of missing girls from the past decade resurface, and calls for the implementation of effective search measures, tightening of supervision and control to solve the current case intensify.
The problem of missing of children is deeply disturbing for the entire society, and the lack of official statistics makes it even more challenging to analyse the causes, consequences and interconnectedness of the circumstances leading to disappearance. The lack of data leaves room for speculation, presenting exaggerated figures and estimates which contribute to the existing panic and anxiety among citizens.
Who are the missing children in Serbia? How many are there and why do they disappear? How are these cases resolved? Who and how reacts when a missing child is reported? Could institutional reactions be more effective? Do we need a system for early alerts in cases of missing children in Serbia? Are there conditions and adequate support in place to introduce such a system? What are the main characteristics of the system for early alert observed from a comparative perspective? Is there an underlying correlation between the effectiveness of the system for early alert in cases of missing children and the enhanced system of biometric surveillance in public areas?
These are the most common questions raised in relation to the missing children phenomenon in Serbia, which this document attempts to answer, while also providing findings and recommendations for further action when designing a system of early alerts in cases of missing children.