The past nine years haven’t been easy as pie for Jason Bier, but closing missing children cases sure is sweet.
In 2011, Bier and fellow volunteers helped launch a pilot test to support AMBER Alerts while working at Chicago-based digital ad agency Conversant. Using Conversant’s geo-targeting ad tech, Bier hoped to raise awareness for missing children, with a focus at a local level where awareness is most crucial to recovery.
Bier founded the Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA), a nonprofit, a few years later, and the organization continues to grow.
“We had a huge piece of a smaller pie when we were just serving AMBER Alerts,” Bier said. “But the team would much rather have a smaller piece of a bigger pie, and to be a part of something bigger.”
While FIA still serves AMBER Alerts across the U.S., its scope is larger than ever — especially over the last year — as it’s added partners and improves technology.
“We never knew what FIA would be,” Bier said. “We didn’t know it was going to evolve into a nonprofit with a dozen terrific companies around the world.”
One of those partnerships is with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC).
Caroline Humer, Director of the Global Missing Children’s Center with ICMEC, is impressed with the the sheer scale FIA can distribute life-saving alerts.
“(ICMEC) is tremendously thankful for the partnership with FIA,” Humer said. “Just in 10 months, we have achieved over 1 billion media impressions across 11 countries by distributing missing children posters through FIA’s alerting technology.”
“This has helped raise international awareness that children go missing in any country,” Humer said. “We look forward to expanding our partnership and reaching more people who can help bring a missing child home.”
Since FIA’s involvement with ICMEC, the number of closed cases for missing children are on the rise, meaning more abducted children are rescued and returned home. In August, more than 50 cases closed. That number never reached higher than five before May. Although there’s still not enough data to substantiate FIA as the reason for the improved number of closed cases, early results are extremely promising.
“It’s just remarkable,” Bier said. “We know 36 percent of children have been recovered during that time, and whether that involves us or not, we’re shining a light in the darkness.
“That’s something I heard from a retired police officer in the UK. He thanked us for shining a light in the darkness to help children. It’s never been done before. It’s a change in the way society is thinking about children and causing governments to realize there are things you can do to help.”
It’s worth going back for seconds.