Maryland's 'Silver Alert' Program Designed to Help Those With Cognitive Disorders

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Maryland's 'Silver Alert' Program Designed to Help Those With Cognitive Disorders

MARYLAND - 12/12/2009

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On Oct. 1, in Maryland’s largest retirement community, state officials gathered to mark the effective date of a new law aimed at assisting in the timely recovery of individuals with cognitive disorders who have gone missing.  Maryland’s ‘Silver Alert’ law directs the Maryland State Police to coordinate a notification plan that will be activated when certain criteria are met involving a person with a cognitive disorder who is missing.
The system is patterned after the AMBER Alert program for critically missing children and requires that certain criteria be met involving the missing person. If the situation warrants, state or local police investigating the disappearance will contact the MSP Silver Alert coordinator.

Upon confirmation of the Silver Alert criteria, the coordinator will contact the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and request an emergency alert. This alert will go to all Maryland police departments, media outlets, and 9-1-1 centers.
The MSP coordinator will also contact the State Highway Administration. Alert information, including a description of the person and the vehicle in which he or she is traveling, will then be displayed on overhead highway signs in the geographic area where the missing person was last seen. Information may also be broadcast on the Highway Advisory Radio network.
The Silver Alert program is the result of legislation introduced in the Maryland General Assembly by Delegate Benjamin Kramer and Senator Rona Kramer, both of whom are from Montgomery County. The legislation was passed and signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley.
“Our new Silver Alert program gives us a coordinated way to communicate information about a critically missing person quickly and to as many people as possible,” Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Terrence B. Sheridan said.

In order for an alert to be issued, a police department must request the alert after the following criteria are met:

  • The missing person must suffer from a cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s, or dementia;
  • The person’s disappearance must pose a true threat to the person’s health and safety;
  • The missing person must be traveling in a vehicle and there must be enough descriptive information about the person and the vehicle for police to issue an alert;
  • The investigating police department has already activated a local alert by contacting media in their area; and
  • The missing person has been entered into the National Crime Information Center database.

It is important to have strict criteria that must be met before an alert is issued in order for the program to be effective. However, when a person goes missing and circumstances do not warrant a Silver Alert, law enforcement will still do everything possible to find the missing person.
MSP will provide any assistance necessary for search and rescue operations. This will likely involve the deployment of K-9 units, including the Department’s outstanding bloodhound teams. State Police bloodhound teams find dozens of missing persons each year, some of whom are senior citizens who have walked away and become lost. MSP helicopters will also be available for searches and rescues. They are equipped with infra-red cameras that help find people even in remote areas. The State Police also has specially trained search teams who can track people on foot in all types of terrain and surroundings.

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