Councillor wants to work with police on missing seniors

By: Jennifer McIntosh, Metroland Media, Ottawa East News

Area councillors should be made aware when a senior citizen goes missing from their neighbourhoods, said Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney.

Tierney pressed police Chief Charles Bordeleau for answers on protocols during the police services board meeting on July 24.

Tierney, whose Facebook pages have thousands of followers, along with his Twitter account, said councillors could be an invaluable tool in getting the word out.

“It’s not the same obviously, but when we get a notification about a missing puppy or cat, it’s usually found in a day,” Tierney said of being notified.

At the board meeting, Bordeleau said there are a series of protocols police follow when it comes to missing persons reports.

He said councillors get notified of homicides and major events, but police could look at letting them know about missing persons.

“We aren’t going to start sending all our communiqués to councillors for verification,” Bordeleau said.

Board chair Eli El-Chantiry asked Bordeleau if it would be worthwhile to put out an Amber Alert – the emergency notification system in place for abduction of children – when seniors go missing.

In recent news, Nelliya Karbisheva, 82, from Stittsville and Jean Proulx, 80, from Beacon Hill, both had dementia and wandered off before being found dead.

In the United States, there is a form of Amber Alert for seniors – it’s called Silver Alert and is currently in place in 36 states.

The alert can be activated at the local or state level and is usually issued when local resources have been exhausted. Criteria for sounding the alarm vary, but it’s usually based on age – 65 or older for most states.

Much like an Amber Alert, a description of the missing person is broadcast on radio and television and put on electronic road signs.

In 2016 interview with Metroland Media, Sgt. Reno Rushford, head of the Ottawa police missing person unit, said with Ottawa’s growing seniors population, the specialty unit is fielding more and more reports of missing seniors. Many of those missing are elderly patients who have walked away from hospitals, psychiatric facilities and retirement residences.

With seniors trying to stay in their homes longer, the unit also regularly fields calls about individuals with dementia or Alzheimer's who have walked away from their own homes.

- with files from Erin McCracken

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