Police forces in Germany and the UK are using the internet and text messaging to help seek out and apprehend criminals. In the UK Sussex Police have introduced a scheme that sends out texts to try to locate missing children, while Greater Manchester Police are using the web to educate young people about street crime. Over in Europe, BKA, the German Federal Crime Agency, is posting CCTV footage of a bank robbery online to try to catch those involved, as well piloting a text-based scheme.

Sussex Police recently introduced the second phase of its Child Rescue Alert scheme. This means that as soon as child is abducted text messages can be sent out to all those who have registered for the scheme — so far 4,000 phones have been registered in the county. The officer in charge decides which phones will be contacted and within what radius of the crime scene.

All police and council mobile phones have been signed up for the scheme and Sussex Police hopes to involve Neighbourhood Watch schemes and schools. "Text messaging is fantastic, but we need to increase the number of people who can act as extra eyes and increase even further the chance of saving the child. People normally have their mobile phone with them and registering that phone to receive an alert is something positive that everyone can do to help," explains project manager DCI Martyn Underhill.

Those within the Sussex Police area can register online at www.childrescuealert.com by sending a text message to 07786 208080 — simply enter the word 'alerts' followed by a space and your postcode.

Greater Manchester Police have launched Operation Hawk, which is designed to teach children how to avoid street crime. It is hoping to boost traffic to the site by offering visitors the chance to win tickets to events like a Manchester United game.

In Germany a video of a bank robbery has been posted on the BKA website. The video, which does not have audio, is the first moving image to be posted on the site, which has previously shown still pictures. There are plans to add audio to footage.

Additionally, the agency is conducting a text search pilot. Under this program, select groups located in public areas, such as taxi drivers, bus drivers and city employees, receive text alerts when a criminal is being sought. The information can contain a brief description of the person, a licence plate number, or other data that can be briefly and quickly disseminated.

The Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers said there were no current plans to promote the use of the internet to help fight crime on a national level, as in Germany, but they welcome local initiatives.