For immediate release: Monday, Oct. 22, 2012
New York State’s Missing Adult Alert system marks one-year anniversary
System credited with helping law enforcement locate seven adults who went missing
New York State tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary of its Missing Adult Alert system, which is activated when an individual 18 years old or older with dementia, autism or other cognitive disorder, brain injury or mental disability is reported missing and is at credible risk of harm.
Administered by the Missing Persons Clearinghouse at the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the alert program went live on Oct. 23, 2011. Since that time, DCJS has issued 21 alerts, and in seven instances, law enforcement officials have credited the alert system with helping them locate the adult that went missing in their communities.
New York State’s Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Elizabeth Glazer said: “Time is of the essence when anyone goes missing, but it is particularly critical when individuals who are unable to care for themselves because of a cognitive impairment or brain disorder wander away from home. This system allows law enforcement to mobilize the public and other agencies to assist in the search, increasing the odds that these individuals will be quickly located and reunited with their families.”
Added DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green: “DCJS is committed to providing local law enforcement agencies with tools and technology that allow them to better serve their communities. In addition to administering the alert system, DCJS staff trains police officers and sheriffs’ deputies on the effective use of the Missing Adult Alert system and educates them about search and rescue tactics and resources that agencies can access in the event a vulnerable adult goes missing in their communities.”
Missing Adult Alerts are similar to AMBER alerts, or the Missing Child/College Student Alert system, which also is administered by the Clearinghouse. The system works as follows:
After receiving a Missing Person report, a law enforcement agency must determine there is a credible risk of harm to a missing individual before contacting the Clearinghouse to request the alert. Once an alert is requested, information about the missing adult is distributed electronically throughout New York State within minutes to the following entities: police agencies, television and radio stations, newspapers, hospitals, New York State Thruway travel plazas and toll booths, airports, bus terminals, train stations and border crossings.
Variable highway signs are activated with Alert information for up to eight hours. Unlike an AMBER Alert, however, radio and television station managers decide if and when to broadcast Missing Adult Alert information. Information also is distributed via NY-ALERT; to register to receive alerts and help spread the word when a vulnerable adult goes missing, visit www.nyalert.org. More than 13,000 people have signed up to receive Missing Adult Alerts.
Alerts assisted the following agencies with locating a missing adult: New York State Police Troops F and G, the Endicott Police Department, the New York City Police Department, Cheektowaga Police Department and the Poughkeepsie City Police Department.
Adults with cognitive disorders, mental disabilities, or brain injuries can experience disorientation and confusion, which often leads to wandering. Lost adults are rarely aware of the danger they may be exposed to and are often unable to ask for help.
Greg Olsen, acting director of the New York State Office for the Aging said: “The number of older New Yorkers is increasing rapidly, especially among those aged 80 and older. The fastest growing segment of the population is those aged 85 and older. These individuals are also the most at risk for a cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Unfortunately, cognitive impairments can make individuals vulnerable, particularly to wandering. The Missing Adult Alert system provides a crucial safety net for those vulnerable older individuals who may go missing by coordinating a statewide search and ensuring that the vulnerable adult is found.”
According to the Alzheimer's Association, approximately six in 10 patients with dementia will wander at least once and 50 percent are at risk of serious harm, or even death, if not located within 24 hours. In addition, the Interactive Autism Network reports that half of all children with autism will leave a safe environment.
Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith, president of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, and a member of the New York State AMBER Alert Partners, said: “One year later, the Missing Adults Alert system has proved itself to be smart, effective legislation on the part of Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Extending an effective protocol, the AMBER Alert system, to a vulnerable population, missing adults with cognitive impairments, has made a significant contribution to public safety, allowing law enforcement to provide vulnerable adults the same kind of immediate response and public alert system that we provide to missing children. I also want to thank the New York State Broadcasters for their strong support of this program in helping us to make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
Added New Windsor Police Chief Michael Biasotti, president of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police: “Previously, police often used local resources and press releases in the search for missing persons who did not meet the definition of a child, college student or endangered person. The missing vulnerable adult law provides for uniformity in reporting and disseminating information about all missing adults, allowing police to focus attention on other aspects of the search.”
More than 800 officers from across the state attended trainings this spring to learn how to use the Missing Adult Alert system effectively and the Clearinghouse is currently sponsoring another training series focused on search and rescue tactics and resources available to law enforcement. More than 500 professionals have registered for a total of 10 trainings, which conclude in late November.
If a loved one with a cognitive disorder, brain injury or mental disability goes missing:
- Call 9-1-1or your local police agency to report that your loved one is a missing vulnerable adult. If you believe your loved one’s life is in imminent danger, ask the police agency to request activation of a Missing Vulnerable Adult Alert and to enter him or her into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File.
- Provide his/her name and description, including height, weight, hair and eye color, date of birth and unique identifiers, such as eye glasses and walks with a cane, for example.
- Describe what the missing person was wearing when last seen, and whether he or she may be driving a vehicle.
- Describe the vehicle they may be driving: make, model and license plate number.
- Provide law enforcement with information about special interests or common themes the missing person may have. For example, the missing person may be attempting to go to a former residence or place of employment.
- Search areas that the person may go. Alert neighbors to assist with the search.
DCJS is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state’s DNA Databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry and a toll-free telephone number (1-800-262-3257) that allows anyone to research the status of an offender.