The hunt for missing children often comes down to time, or a lack thereof. Sometimes there is only so much police can do, so public aid is crucial in these cases.
The Missing Children Society of Canada’s new web browser app, rescu, was built with this in mind, according to the organization, and will open up the lines of communication between members of the public and the law enforcement running those investigations.
“What we know is when a child is missing from a safe environment, they’re at risk. And those risks increase, the longer that they are missing. The faster we can find them, the less risk that they are subjected to, and the less impact that that risk poses on their life,” said Amanda Pick, chief executive officer of MCSC, said in a press conference announcing the launch of the app. “As an organization, we’ve been on a journey to harness technology, because what we know is technology provides the opportunity to bring the community together to stand with us to be waiting and ready when a child goes missing, and police need our help to find them. Today is about sharing that journey. It will mean that every single Canadian can join us and ensure that when a child is missing, no matter what the circumstance, we can come together and help.”
In 2018, police in Canada responded to 42,233 reports of missing children. That’s roughly one every ten minutes.
The public-facing half of the app, developed in partnership with Esri Canada, allows for three major functions: viewing open cases in your area, submitting tips, and signing up for SMS alerts for new cases in your area.
Users can read about the circumstances in which the child went missing by viewing the list of open cases in the area. Clicking on the names sends users to a tip submission form specifically for that child.
On the back end of the app MCSC can view a range of data on a map including open cases, range of distance the missing child could have traveled, users of the app, tips submitted, and more.
Through the app’s SMS alerts, many of the cases that don’t qualify for Amber alerts will now get the public attention when police believe it’s warranted. Less than 1 per cent of missing children in Canada qualify for Amber alerts, and therefore no public notice is delivered.
The app has already been adopted by the Calgary Police Service and Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service. At the press conference the two services had positive things to say about the app and encouraged all Canadians to sign up for it.
“Every extra pair of eyes, every extra pair of ears that we have on the lookout for that missing child in our community can literally be the difference between life and death. With the innovative work that MCC has done along with partners like Esri Canada and the unparalleled technology that we have created for law enforcement and our communities, I can tell you that the way that we handle missing children investigations and the timeliness of our alerts out to our community has evolved greatly,” said Superintendent Cliff O’Brien of the Calgary Police Service at the press conference.
“Through the rescu technology, we have the ability to connect investigators with our community, hundreds of thousands of people in our community with real-time, geographic-specific information. That means that we’re able to put out information, photographs of the children, the photographs of potential offenders descriptions, right in the hands of the people or community that is out there on the street where somebody has gone missing or been reported missing. And this is all done with really a touch of a button.”
The app can be accessed from https://rescu.mcsc.ca/ and an icon can be downloaded to a smartphone’s home screen from there.