CALIFORNIA – Sheriff John Anderson sees a potential bonus, and an added safety net, for Madera County senior citizens when SB 1047 – “Silver Alert” notification system – goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013
This notification system, signed into law by the governor on Sept. 27, mirrors the already existing Amber Alert. But instead of activating public searches for children, Silver Alert will allow law enforcement agencies to request advisories for missing seniors. As with Amber Alert, Silver Alert will be coordinated by the California Highway Patrol, who will assist the investigating law enforcement agency by issuing a be-on-the-lookout alert, an Emergency Digital Information Service message, or an electronic flier.
A law enforcement agency may request a Silver Alert be activated if that agency determines that all of the following conditions are met in regard to the investigation of the missing person:
1. The missing person is 65 years of age or older.
2. The investigating law enforcement agency has utilized all available local resources.
3. The law enforcement agency determines that the person has gone missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances.
4. The law enforcement agency believes that the person is in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions, that the person is in the company of a potentially dangerous person, or that there are other factors indicating that the person may be in peril.
5. There is information available that, if disseminated to the public, could assist in the safe recovery of the missing person.
One of the criteria, that the person who has gone missing is “in danger due to age, health, mental or physical disability,” falls under a category that Sheriff Anderson says will benefit clients of Madera County Sheriff’s Operation Lost & Found program.
Operation Lost & Found has been in effect since 2004, and provides electronic tracking for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders.
However, as good as it is, Anderson says it isn’t fool proof, because the radio tracking system designed to located those who are prone to wander, only works in Madera County.
“What if an Operation Lost & Found client were to wander beyond the county line?” asks Anderson. That’s when Silver Alert comes into play.
In the eight years Operation Lost & Found has been in place, two clients vanished and were eventually located outside our jurisdiction, says Anderson.
In one case, a Valley man left his home in the family car. He was gone almost two days before he was found by chance. Checking on what appeared to be a stranded motorist, a CHP officer found him near Kettleman City, some 80 miles from his home. He was hungry, disoriented, dehydrated and scared.
Another client, who resides in the foothills of Madera County, also took off in the family car. He was found more than 24 hours later in southern California, more than 300 miles from his home.
With SB 1047 in place, Sheriff Anderson says there is now an extra tool at the department’s disposal when searches are launched for Madera County clients, especially those who are missing and may no longer be in the county.