Local News

'Silver Alert' System Launches in N.C.

Posted December 19, 2007

— The state has a new tool to help officials find people with mental impairments when they are missing.

The new “Silver Alert” was officially launched Tuesday. State officials say it's much like he Amber Alert used to tell the public when a child has gone missing.

A Silver Alert will be issued when people wander away from their homes or nursing facilities. Its biggest benefit is the ability to spread word of a missing person quickly and over a wide area.

Law enforcement officials hope Silver Alerts can help them avoid situations like that of 76-year-old Mildred Rogers, who wandered from her Raleigh home in August. She suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. When authorities found her, it was too late.

"Family members or caregivers become concerned because their loved one may have run an errand and become confused or gone for a walk in the neighborhood and become lost," said Bryan Beatty, secretary of the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

“The Silver Alert program is designed to quickly help find those individuals and return them home safely,” Beatty explained.

Officials expect 25 to 30 alerts will be issued statewide each month. Police typically have waited 24 hours before spreading the word about a missing adult. The Silver Alert gets the word out immediately.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison says time is of the essence when looking for a missing person.

“When a person starts walking and sometimes when they have dementia, they'll get something in their mind – maybe they're going back to their home or going back to a play area – and they don't have any idea how fast they were walking,” Harrison said.

The Silver Alert puts several tools in officials’ hands. They'll use highway alert signs if the person may be driving. They also can make a thousand automated phone calls a minute in the area where the person disappeared.

Administrators admit false alarms are possible, but they say that risk is justified.

“If it saves a person, (even) if occasionally it ends up that perhaps that (if) we knew the full story it wouldn't be issued, it's worth doing just to save the individuals we do save,” Beatty said.

There are strict guidelines for issuing a Silver Alert. The person must be at least 18 and have some type of cognitive impairment, and local law enforcement must notify the state Center for Missing Persons.

All Silver Alerts must go through that organization.

13 Comments

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  • lizard Dec 19, 8:19 p.m.

    Plywood alert for missing developers in Cary.

  • lizard Dec 19, 8:08 p.m.

    Gray alert for missing troopers.

  • lizard Dec 19, 8:07 p.m.

    “When a person starts walking and sometimes when they have dementia, they'll get something in their mind – maybe they're going back to their home or going back to a play area – and they don't have any idea how fast they were walking,” Harrison said.

    Replace the word "walking" with the word "spending" and then we can have "green alerts" for missing legislators and congressmen.

    As it stands now: Conditions blue, green, yellow, orange, and red for terrorism. Amber for missing children. Silver for missing demented people.

    Can ya'll think of any others that may be necessary? Help me out.

  • redwarrior Dec 19, 3:05 p.m.

    I'm concerned that with so many "alerts", that people will stop paying them any attention whatsoever.

  • beas Dec 19, 12:41 p.m.

    So why do they not have a Silver Alert for the gentleman who is missing?

  • Squirreling Dervish Dec 19, 12:32 p.m.

    IRX4Fun

    Oh.My.GOD. I think i peed myself that was so funny.

  • clintoflannagan Dec 19, 11:24 a.m.

    well according to this other WRAL article they've got their first client: http://www.wral.com/news/news_briefs/story/2193090/

    I hope they find the guy.

  • dogsrule12cheek Dec 19, 11:03 a.m.

    This is a great idea,

  • 1Rx4FN Dec 19, 10:26 a.m.

    Durham Dude - At least the signs on 40 will be used for something.
    "Please look out for grey haired woman wondering the streets"

    Don't you mean look out for grey haired woman wondering the streets driving 15 MPH below the speed limit in the left lane with the blinker on?

    If so, I found her this morning on the way to work.

  • DurhamDude Dec 19, 10:10 a.m.

    At least the signs on 40 will be used for something.

    "Please look out for grey haired woman wondering the streets"

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