RCMP launch wandering program in Williams Lake

In response to the large number of calls they receive to help locate people, WIlliams Lake RCMP has launched a 'Wandering Alert" program.

After the Wiliams Lake RCMP helped locate a missing senior last year, the senior’s wife suggested the local detachment needed to develop a system to help locate people who are vulnerable and at risk of becoming lost.

In response to her request and the large number of calls they receive to help locate people, the WIlliams Lake RCMP has launched a ‘Wandering Alert’ program, community safety co-ordinator Dave Dickson said Friday.

“We’ve crafted a form that if you as the caregiver have concerns about the person you are looking after being a wanderer, you can give us a current photo, and the Cole’s Notes on the person.”

Say a person has retired from West Fraser sawmill, and likes to walk down and look in the yard, Dickson used as an example.

“We would want you to list any medical conditions, things police should know when they find them and approach them. They might liked to be called Mr. Jones versus George.”

Once the form is completed, it is placed in a confidential electronic database that will be managed by security cleared volunteers.

“If they are registered at the police office and someone calls us in a panic, we can quickly go to that database and immediately get it out to RCMP members, search and rescue if we need to call them in, and to all media,” Dickson said.

A few years ago in Williams Lake a man went missing on a cold day.

“He didn’t have dementia, but was elderly. Within four minutes of us releasing his photo we got a call saying he just got in a cab and is returning to his place of residence,” Dickson recalled.

And if the family or caregiver fills out the form with a current photograph, then the police have permission to release the photo, he said.

The volunteers managing the database will update it annually and contact the person who has filled out the form.

Dickson said family living out of town can correspond electronically with the Wandering Alert program.

Contact information of health care providers is valuable and provides an opportunity for further consultation and support, Dickson added.

Dickson, along with Harriet Hird from Victim Services and Const. Larry Brady of the Williams Lake RCMP have developed the program.

The three of them, along with half a dozen RCMP members and Cariboo Search and Rescue received some training in Williams Lake from a member of the Alzheimer Society from Kamloops.

“We’ve partnered with Interior Health, Retirement Concepts, Seniors Activity Centre and the Cariboo Friendship Society,” Dickson said, adding the forms will be available at all of those places as well as the RCMP detachment after Nov. 16.

Dickson said he knows a woman who goes wandering and he’d be heart broken if she got cold, lay down in the snow, and the RCMP didn’t have the details to try and identify her.

“This way our guys can be so much more savvy in what they do,” he said.

Privacy is a big component in the program and it cannot be mandated or forced on anyone, but  it will give a person who is suffering dementia or mental illness a better chance of being found quicker.

For information on the program contact Const.  Larry Brady   larry.brady@rcmp-grc.gc.ca   250 392-6211, Harriet Hird  RCMP Victim Services  harriet-hird@rcmp-grc.gc.ca  250 392-8701 or Dave Dickson, Community Safety  david.dickson@rcmp-grc.gc.ca  250 392-8701.