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A boy with his head is his hands sitting on a concrete sidewalk.

Rescu app an added tool to find missing kids

The MCSC rescu app is designed to be used when new missing children cases are reported to police and the public's help is needed. Credit: Shutterstock


When police are sure a child has been abducted and is in danger, they can issue provincially operated Amber Alerts. The well-known alerts are shared with the public by traditional news media, on social-media, and through smartphone push notifications.

"The Amber Alert is a critical tool that's activated with a higher threshold," says Amanda Pick, the chief executive officer of the Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC).

But, not all missing children meet the established criteria of an Amber Alert, including for example a child who runs away from home.

Of the more than 40,000 children who the RCMP estimates go missing each year, Amber Alerts are issued in only a small number of the cases.

The MCSC has created an app to fill a space in the national efforts to find all missing kids.

An appropriate solution

The MCSC rescu app is designed to be used when new missing children cases are reported to police and the public's help is needed.

Canadians with the app on their phone can view active missing children cases by region, submit tips, and register to receive text alerts about cases in their area.

Police use the app by working with MCSC, and the Society will not push out an alert unless law enforcement is involved in the case.

Users who register their location will receive an alert about a missing child from another jurisdiction if the child is believed to be in their area. They can use the MCSC rescu app to see cases across Canada.

"Every missing child deserves to be seen and this app helps accomplish that" says Pick.

The network includes a database that collects real-time details, including photographs, from police about missing children cases. That information is also disseminated through traditional media and a variety of social media channels.

The app was developed in conjunction with Microsoft and Esri Canada, which specializes in Geographic Information System solutions.

Early adopters

The Calgary Police Service and Tsuut'ina Nation Police Service, which borders Calgary to the west, were earlier adopters of the mobile app. It is now used by numerous police agencies across the country, including some RCMP detachments.

Supt. Cliff O'Brien of the Calgary Police Service says the more people there are looking for a missing child or potential suspect, the better. "Predators need anonymity and this app helps take that away by involving more people in our community," he says.

The app was instrumental in helping a Tsuut'ina Nation Police officer locate a missing teen. The officer became aware from Calgary Police that a teenage boy with connections to the First Nation had gone missing. He eventually received a rescu app notification on his work phone about the case, which included information, a photo and a description of the teen.

A few hours after the rescu app notification, the same officer, who was on patrol on Tsuut'ina Nation, found the missing boy.

"It's a tool that's extremely useful and gives police access to images and up-to-date information," says Senior Cpl. Mike Cavilla of the Tsuut'ina Nation Police Service.

The more eyes the better

The MCSC Child Search Network is an identified program of the RCMP's National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR). A signed a memorandum of understanding between the two organizations helps increase public awareness on issues related to missing children.

RCMP Sgt. Lana Prosper, who works with the NCMPUR in Ottawa, says when missing children files do not meet the Amber Alert criteria, the National Missing Children's Policy of the RCMP supports the rescu app as an alternative. The app's use remains at the discretion of each detachment.

"A lot of times a missing children's investigation does not meet the Amber Alert criteria," says Prosper. "However, the rescu app puts more eyes on a case that can help find the missing."

The MCSC rescu app is available on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.

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