A new website from the Missing Children Society of Canada, displayed on a computer in Toronto on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

New web tool aims to enlist Canadians to help find missing kids

Website shows all active missing-children cases by geographic region

Thousands of children are reported missing across the country each year, but only a handful of Amber Alerts are issued, potentially leaving large numbers of people who might be able to help find them in the dark.

Now, a new website that aims to reach far more people than is currently the case — especially those who might be close to where the child went missing — is launching on Tuesday.

“It’s the real-time opportunity for Canadians to see in one network all of the missing children cases and specifically the ones that they can help with in their area,” said Amanda Pick, CEO of the non-profit Missing Children’s Society of Canada. “The more Canadians that become involved in this, the higher the ability we have to protect a child and find a child when they go missing.”

Based on information provided by police, the society’s Rescu website allows users to view all active cases by geographic region. Names, photographs and other relevant data about a missing child is available at the click of a mouse. Users who might have useful information can provide tips by clicking on the name or picture of the child.

The new web application also allows users to register to receive text alerts on their cellphones specific to cases in their area. The faster a child is found, the more likely they can be returned unharmed to safety, data indicate.

RCMP data indicate more than 42,000 children were reported missing last year — the vast majority are found safe — but police activated fewer than 10 Amber Alerts due to the high threshold of urgency required to do so.

Despite their infrequency, late-night Amber Alerts via cellphones have sparked a backlash among some recipients. The Rescu system allows alerts to be narrowcast only to people who have signed up. Depending on circumstances, alerts can be sent to a wider area.

READ MORE: Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

“This is a volunteer opportunity,” Pick said from Calgary. “You can enable a push notification when it makes sense for you.”

Only cases police deem pressing are expected to become alert material, the society said. As a result, those who sign up won’t be bombarded by alerts, or receive both Amber Alerts and Rescu texts. There’s no charge to users, who won’t be tracked. Tipsters can stay anonymous or provide names and email addresses if they want.

The website, accessible via any computer of smartphone browser without any downloads at https://rescu.mcsc.ca, is powered by cutting-edge “hub” technology from Toronto-based Esri Canada that allows for the management and dissemination of data.

Alex Miller, the company’s president, said he expected police and social-service workers involved with missing children will also use the system.

“They currently don’t have a way to easily share this information,” Miller said. “(But) if you provide the tools, people will come together.”

Both the Calgary Police Service and Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service are first to adopt the web app, which can be continually updated with new information, for their missing children investigations.

Pick said the hope is for widespread uptake among Canadians.

“It only takes one person,” Pick said. “(But) the more Canadians that become involved in this, the higher the ability we have to protect a child and find a child when they go missing.”

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fruitvale product new ambassador for Blue Jays Care Foundation

Fruitvale native Ella Matteucci led off Jays Care Foundation with a few Twitter tips on staying fit

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Fact: B.C. bats don’t carry or spread COVID

BC Annual Bat Count goes this summer, citizens encouraged to take part

Mountain Pineapple defers application for new cannabis store in Rossland

The application was originally going to be reviewed by city council on May 19

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Oak Bay man stumbles upon eagle hunting seal, grabs camera just in time

The eagle did ‘a perfect butterfly stroke to shore’ with its prey, photographer says

Most Read