TORONTO — A new alert system that police recently used to find two missing girls received endorsement from the country's police chiefs on Thursday.
The system, known as the Child Search Network, allows police to put out information on a missing child via a website and smart-phone app. Members of the public can then offer tips by clicking on the name or picture of the child.
Supt. Cliff O'Brien, with Calgary police, called the network run by the non-profit Missing Children Society of Canada "super impressive."
"The more people in our community that are looking instead of just the police, the better it is," O'Brien said. "It's great that all law enforcement is going to come together with our communities to help rescue kids."
The network aims to alert the public — especially those in a specific location — to missing children deemed at high risk, but who are not in the kind of imminent danger needed to trigger an Amber Alert. The network began testing in September 2019, with just a few police services as early adopters.
Now, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have given the system its blessing. The association is urging all police services across the country to adopt and implement the new network as a standard resource in all high-risk missing children investigations.
“Collaborative efforts like this are key to improving public safety," said Chief Bryan Larkin, head of the police chiefs association.
The society's Rescu website and phone app allows users to view all active cases by geographic region. Names, photographs and other relevant data are available.
Users can register to receive text alerts on their cellphones specific to cases in their area. The faster a child is found, the more likely they can be returned unharmed to safety, data indicate.
Police services across Canada received 40,425 reports of missing children or youth — about half of all missing-person reports, federal data show. About three-quarters of the young people involved were runaways.
A few weeks ago Calgary police were able to find two 14-year-old girls reported as missing and designated as high risk after an alert via the network. Tips began coming in within hours of the first alert.
"Within 24 hours, we were able to locate and safely return this second girl to her family," O'Brien said. "The first 14-year-old girl, within three days of that, we were also able to find her and return her to her loved ones."
Amanda Pick, CEO of the Missing Children Society of Canada, said the technology and system now in place will help in the rescue of vulnerable children.
"We have a network that is able to be used in every single community by every single police service for the sole purpose of protecting children and finding a child as fast as possible," Pick said.
Over the past year, the society's Rescu website has received about 4,500 visits and close to 800 users have subscribed to receive text alerts, the organization said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021.
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press