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March 5, 2020

When a Loved One Wanders

by Sonya Bush, TPD Special Victims Unit

In the last twelve months, the Tallahassee Police Department responded to 326 reports of missing people. We found many of the missing people shortly after receiving the report; however, 250 were not. The Special Victim’s Unit investigated those who were not immediately located. Some of those cases involved missing children, runaway juveniles, and missing adults who were categorized as “endangered.”

Individuals can be categorized as “endangered” for many reasons. Yet, the most common is when someone is suffering from a memory disorder. When this happens, the Tallahassee Police Department uses a number of different resources. Some of the things we do include releasing flyers with the missing persons picture to local media, enlisting the assistance of available aviation units, deploying canine search teams, and activating alert systems available to law enforcement.

What To Do When Someone Goes Missing

You can increase the likelihood of a safe return for someone who wanders! First, immediately call law enforcement. Time is of the essence when it comes to missing and endangered individuals. The longer you wait to report a loved one missing, the more difficult is becomes to locate them.

Unfortunately, many caregivers spend an hour or more searching for their family member before calling law enforcement. The average person can travel a mile in 15 to 20 minutes. This means the missing person could be 3-4 miles away before law enforcement is even notified. To put that in perspective, it would be equivalent to someone walking away from the Capitol building and making it to the “Centre of Tallahassee” before anyone even called to report them missing. Now, imagine that occurring during evening hours or inclement weather. Extended exposure to extreme temperatures can be tremendously hazardous to their well-being as well.

Additional Tips

Another thing you can do is to maintain a list of important information. Some examples include:

  • Places they may try to go out of habit (i.e. previous residences or places of employment)
  • Places they like to eat or visit
  • Addresses of friends and relatives
  • Relevant medical diagnoses
  • Medications
  • Updated photograph

Additional options include enrolling in Project Lifesaver and obtaining a scent preservation kit. Project Lifesaver is a program that provides wearable tracking devices law enforcement can locate using specialized equipment. The scent preservation kits capture the individual’s scent for future use with a tracking canine. You can purchase them online or contact the Alzheimer’s Project for more information.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where a loved one has wandered, local law enforcement will do everything possible to help bring them home safely. You can help us by doing the things listed above!

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