San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Missing Persons

Costa Rica successfully tests new missing child alert system

Public Security Ministry officials have reported the first successful test of a new emergency system for broadcasting alerts following the disappearance of a minor, known as SAN. The first test alert helped locate a 13-year-old girl who was reported missing on Monday in the Alajuela canton of San Ramón.

The state-owned Costa Rican Electricity Institute sent an alert via SMS to its 3.8 million mobile services customers, and the ministry posted the child’s information and photo on its Twitter profile, @seguridadcr.

On Tuesday, a woman from San Ramón called police to report a girl hidden in a coffee plantation near her house. She was the missing child.

The girl told police she was afraid to return home, so officers took her to the Child Welfare Office to investigate her situation.

Public Security Minister Gustavo Mata Vega said he is pleased with the results of the first test and asked private mobile carriers to move forward and join the alert system.

“We’re saving children’s lives. Any effort we can make is completely worth it,” Mata said.

A bill outlining the creation of the SAN alert is still pending lawmakers’ approval in a second and final round of voting at the Legislative Assembly. Lawmakers last month approved it in a first round. That piece of legislation, known as “Alert System for the Protection of Costa Rican Children,” or SAN, is promoted by lawmakers Fabricio Alvarado from the National Restoration Party and Humberto Vargas of the Social Christian Unity Party.

Alvarado and Mata on Monday met to discuss details regarding the information that will be included in alert messages and negotiations with private mobile carriers.

Contact L. Arias at

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Ken Morris

Sorry, this system needs to be reconsidered.

If it takes each cell phone user only 2 seconds to open and delete the missing child alerts, 2000 man hours–equivalent to a full-time employee working all year–are wasted on each alert. And if the alerts are sent out for missing children (most of whom are runaways and have a good reason to be missing) why not for missing adults? Why not for every pulperia robbery, rape, drive-by shooting, and so forth?

It seems to me that 3.8 million cell phone users have the right not to be disturbed by random alerts, however well-intentioned they are. Sure, alerts might sensibly be sent in cases of a national emergency when almost everyone needs to take action, but please, not for every family squabble.

BTW, the article doesn’t say whether the alert had any bearing on the good citizen who reported the child hiding in the coffee plantation. Something tells me that if you see a kid hiding in a coffee plantation you don’t need a cell phone alert to suspect something is afoul.

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