Upgrades to Washington State's Alert System Help Track Down Missing People
Upgrades to Washington State's Alert System Help Track Down Missing People

Source: Google News

Tammy Ayer / Yakima Herald-Republic

Washington State Patrol has issued 77 missing person alerts this year, 70 of which were successful in finding people, the agency announced recently.

Five people highlighted in alerts are still missing and two people were found deceased, according to a State Patrol update on the Washington Missing Persons Alert System. The agency issues alerts at the request of law enforcement, and shared the latest statistics the day before Thanksgiving.

“These stories do not always have happy endings but often times, with your help, they do,” State Patrol Chief John Batiste said in the news release. “So I urge everyone to pay attention to the alerts and to call 911 with any information that could be at all helpful in our searches.

“You never know what small observation can be the big break in a missing person’s case and you might just be a part of the best holiday possible for a hurting family.”

There are alert designations for missing children, seniors, people with unique vulnerabilities and Indigenous women and men. Here’s a breakdown of how many were issued in each category, and the results.

  • There were five Amber Alerts for missing children (all successful recoveries of the missing children)
  • 47 Silver Alerts for missing seniors (one person found deceased)
  • Eight Endangered Missing Persons Advisories for individuals with unique vulnerabilities (two alerts remain active, including one for missing Yakima boy Lucian Munguia, who is autistic and nonverbal)
  • 17 Missing Indigenous Person Alerts (one person found deceased, three alerts remain active, including one for Esmeralda “Kit” Mora of Omak, an Indigenous teen with extensive ties to Yakima County)

In at least 10 of those cases, law enforcement listed the alerts as essential to recovery, State Patrol said. In particular, three of the successful recoveries of people highlighted in Missing Indigenous Persons Alerts directly resulted from a member of the public seeing the alert.

State Patrol launched the alert system for missing Indigenous people in July.

Also in July, the system added the ability to geo-target the Wireless Emergency Alerts, which go directly to subscribers’ cellphones. That allows for a more targeted search area and reduces the number of notices people may receive.

The Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit of State Patrol can embed a hyperlink in those messages that will take followers to its Twitter page (https://twitter.com/WSPMissingPers1) to see a poster with photos of the missing person with information about an involved vehicle and suspect if one has been identified. A Twitter account isn’t necessary to view the posters.

Law enforcement agencies across the United States have found that missing person alerts help raise the public consciousness about dangers and vulnerabilities, authorities said.

“We are fortunate in Washington that the general public, government agencies and local broadcasters have all really embraced the alert system. We get a lot of calls when alerts are posted and shared by the media and this new tool gives us that many more ‘eyes and ears’ in the field,” said Carri Gordon, unit director.

“Law enforcement cannot do this work alone. … updating technologies allows an engaged public additional tools that can significantly increase our chances for successful recoveries,” she said.