A new app aims to significantly expand the search for missing children across Canada.
The Missing Children Society of Canada is hosting the “MCSC rescu” app on its website, intended to recruit the public to assist law enforcement officials. Through the app, targeted alerts can be sent to anyone signed up to the program when children go missing.
“We’re able to share information with the police and the public through easy-to-understand dynamic maps and push alerts to people in specific locations, even down to a street,” Amanda Pick, CEO of the society, said of the application developed by Toronto-based ERSI Canada, a geographical information system provider.
“This allows us to find children faster, but we need every single Canadian to help us.”
The application, which shows missing-children’s cases from across the country, can be found at rescu.mcsc.ca. Included is key information on each case and the ability to easily — and anonymously — send in tips.
When a child does go missing, MCSC is able to geographically locate where that child may be based on travel times in the area. They would then be able to send out an alert for the missing child in that specific area.
So far, only two police agencies in Alberta have adopted the application — the Calgary Police Service and Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service.
The app is part of a bigger push, Pick said, toward better use of available technology.
“When I arrived at our organization, I asked a question that changed my life, changed the organizational path, which was, how do we bring awareness to these cases,” said Pick, who is in her 10th year with the society. “People still reference milk cartons, shockingly enough, as well as posters.
“It’s a journey that’s been tremendous and it’s taken us from milk cartons to the use of posters, to social media, to apps, to this moment in time where Canada will have a secondary network that allows for a level of connection through technology that we haven’t seen yet.”
Calgary police deputy chief Cliff O’Brien said the app would be rolled out to all 3,000 sworn and civilian employees, helping fill a gap in the Amber Alert system.
“The Amber Alert system in Canada we have is a great system (but) there is a certain threshold, a much higher threshold (to activate it),” he said. “This (app) is something where we have community members that are voluntarily signing up for this, which is great.
“With all of those missing children every year, there is a high percentage that are at risk but, again, they don’t meet the threshold (of an Amber Alert). I would argue this is filling a gap. This is . . . helping law enforcement and the community and our families get children back home.”