App Aims To Find Missing Kids

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 1:44 p.m. November 10, 2014

The Toronto Police Service has become the second Canadian police agency to adopt a rapid response app-based program, CodeSearch, to help find missing children.

A group of people stand with a man in TPS uniform near a set of stairs in an atrium
Aaron Salus, Alok Mukherjee, Amanda Pick, Margaret Stuart, Bill Blair, Richard Bartrem and Alan Treddenich at the launch event at police headquarters.

The initiative is a partnership between corporations, the  Missing Children of Society of Canada (MCSC) and law enforcement.

CodeSearch partner employees download a smartphone app and sign up as field agents to be notified in the event a child goes missing. The MCSC can then send geo-targeted alerts to agents in areas where a child has gone missing or any abduction has occurred.

Chief Bill Blair welcomed the opportunity for the Service to be part of the innovative venture to quickly locate missing children.

“I don’t think there is a greater responsibility that any of us have or that all of us have than the safety and protection of our children,” he said. “It’s a shared responsibility and a commitment I think every Canadian makes to ensure that our children are safe. I can only imagine as both a parent and as a cop how traumatic it is for any family to go through the extraordinary trauma and tragedy of losing a child and that’s why we are so proud to stand as partners with the MCSC for the extraordinary work that they do in ensuring that information of missing children is shared right across Canada.”

Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee said CodeSearch is a fine example of harnessing the power of existing and emerging technology for social good.

“Utilizing new and innovative ways to quickly locate missing or abducted children and reunite them with their families is vital and I would say priceless,” he noted. “Keeping our children and communities safe is paramount to our community and I believe to each and everyone of our officers as they carry out their roles and responsibilities. Missing children is not always a local challenge confined within the boundaries of a defined community.

“Increasingly, it’s a challenge that crosses boundaries and is taking on an international dimension. Therefore, forming these strategic and important partnerships not only locally but nationally and internationally will be vital. Through such linkages, we can build a strong alliance in which everyone, from law enforcement agencies to corporations to members of the community play a dynamic role in ensuring that our children and communities are safe.”


Technology has afforded this amazing opportunity

MCSC executive director Amanda Pick praised Toronto Police for being part of the collaborative that she says offers an innovative game-changer that will serve children and families.

“The one thing we know is that when a child goes missing, there is not one person in our community that does not want to play a part in reuniting that child with their families,” she said. “Through our work in the last 28 years of serving children and families, we understand that in order to be able to bring that child home as quickly as possible and ultimately to prevent missing children from occurring, we needed to connect our community.

“Technology has afforded this amazing opportunity…This program is content-rich and it means we are going to be able to get all of our information out into your hands. It’s geographically specific…We can send information to one person, 100,000 people or a million people. We can send information from our law enforcement partners to the right people in the right place and we know that if we are able to grow this connected network, it will mean that no child will have to face not being reunited with their families. We will ensure that children don’t go missing in our country and we will do that through innovation, technology and most importantly we will do that through being a connected community.”

Margaret Stuart, BlackBerry Canada’s managing director, said her organization is delighted to be part of the collaboration.

BlackBerry Messaging is an instant message service with 91 million active subscribers globally and BBM channels are also available on iPhones and androids.

“The BBM channel is a part of what allows organizations to get reliable and secure communications out immediately to anybody that subscribes to that channel,” Stuart pointed out. “We are asking Canadians to go to their favourite app store using their favourite Smartphone to download the Missing Children Society of Canada BBM channel to subscribe so they then have instant access to the communication that’s broadcast when a child goes missing. So by working together, we can bring all those children home.”

WestJet is also a founding partner of CodeSeacrh.

“We at WestJet believe it’s important to bring our voice to echo the importance that CodeSearch brings to the safety and well-being of children across Canada,” said Richard Bartrem, the company’s vice-president of communications and community relations.

Marketwire and the Most Valuable Network are also part of the collaboration.

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