The use of the alert system follows a comprehensive review of operations, and the NSW Police Force announcement of the establishment of the Missing Persons Registry (MPR) and the implementation of new systems and procedures, which came into effect in July 2019.
NSW Police say that since that time, the MPR has undertaken a review of all standard operating procedures, developing new protocols and identifying areas of improvement, including immediate operational response.
State Crime Command Director, Detective Chief Superintendent Darren Bennett, said the new geo-targeting tool would be invaluable to help police in locating missing people when there are serious concerns for their safety.
“As these situations are unpredictable, the launch date of this new alert system cannot be determined in advance,” Det Ch Supt Bennett said.
“We now have the capabilities to use this system when there is an operational need in NSW and therefore want the community to be aware these functions exist; in the event they receive an SMS in the future.”
“When this tool is used, a brief message can be sent out to all mobile devices within a defined area. The message can include a brief description of the missing person, as well as details of how to report a sighting.
“This system is currently used by states and territories to send out alerts within specific areas in the event of likely emergency situations, such as flood, bush fire or other extreme weather conditions.”
Det Ch Supt Bennett said that with the introduction of the new Missing Persons Registry operating systems, only 18 missing person cases reached 90 days and obtained long-term status last year.
“This is a significant achievement from the previous missing persons cases becoming long term which averaged 147 per year between 2015 and 2019,” he said.
“It is our hope, that with the introduction of the new geo-targeting tool, that we are able to reduce this number even further.”
Missing Persons Registry Coordinator, Detective Inspector Glen Browne, said the circumstances in which people go missing are varied, as are the associated risks.
“It is proposed that the use of geographically targeted SMS messages will only be used in high-risk circumstances, as determined by the new missing persons operating procedures which have been implemented state-wide,” Det Insp Browne said.
“An assessment of all available and relevant information will be made in consultation with the Missing Persons Registry and local Police Area Command or Police District, before an SMS can be sent.
“Examples of missing persons considered high-risk include people living with dementia who may wander from their homes, children with developmental delays who are separated from their family or carers, and young children who go missing in large crowds.
“In each of these situations, serious concerns are held for a person’s safety if they are not located quickly – making the SMS tool invaluable to first-responders,” Det Insp Browne said.
The NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said there is “no time to waste when someone is reported missing”.
“Police always act as quickly as possible to find anyone who is reported missing and this tool will mean the public will be able to assist almost immediately,” Minister Elliott said.
“The community should never underestimate the crucial role they can play in potentially saving someone from harm and if you receive this message, we ask that you keep your eyes out and help police to reunite someone with their loved ones.”
The MPR announced that it has engaged telecommunications providers, Telstra, Optus and TPG to facilitate the use and implementation of the SMS geo-targeting tool, utilising the existing emergency alert framework.
John Ieraci, Chief Customer Officer, Telstra Enterprise said technology innovation is crucial to improving community safety.
“We’re thrilled to be assisting the NSW Police Force Missing Persons Registry with the ability to notify the community in critical missing persons cases and hope it will help our first responders make some happy reunions,” Ieraci said.