Public is key to closing many missing person alerts

DOVER — Not every missing person warrants a Gold Alert.

There’s clearly concern for anyone with whereabouts unknown, but some cases need extra attention.

If so, law enforcement follows Delaware law allowing wide distribution of public information as a search commences.

Fortunately, most persons are quickly found.

Of 15 Gold Alerts issued by DSP since May 13, 11 persons were located within a day. Two others were resolved in four days, another in three. One May 26 case remained unresolved as of Wednesday.

The missing’s ages ranged from 15 to 72, involving eight females and seven males. Twelve Gold Alerts were generated in Sussex, one in Kent and two in New Castle counties.

Alerts were issued from one end of the First State to the other — Smyrna, Lewes, Selbyville, Laurel (two), Seaford, Millsboro, Wilmington (two), Frankford (two), Georgetown, Seaford, Lincoln and Harbeson.

Legislation passed in July 2018 further assists finding senior citizens age 60 or older, those with disabilities, concerning mental or medical conditions and/or suicidal inclinations.

This year, Delaware State Police have issued approximately 42 Gold Alerts. Information is posted for public dissemination on social media and First State law enforcement agencies are notified via email.

A DSP Facebook post Sunday regarding a 66-year-old Lewes woman was garnered four comments and 1,200 shares within two days. A since-located 38-year-old Smyrna man registered six comments and 407 shares beginning in a day, while a 30-year-old Selbyville woman’s disappearance generated four comments and 420 shares within 24 hours.

“As with any investigation when we receive tips from the public, we will do a follow-up on the information provided to us and to determine if the information is useful or credible to the investigation,” DSP spokeswoman Master Cpl. Melissa Jaffe said.

There’s no specific data tracked on the average length of an active Gold Alert or how many are successfully resolved. They’re issued after a person with interest in the missing person’s safety and well being (such as a family member or caregiver) contacts authorities.

“Often times the person that has reported those missing is able to locate them or police are able to locate them through investigative measures,” Cpl. Jaffe said.

As of May 20, Dover Police had posted 14 Gold Alerts this year. “More often than not, the missing person returns or is located within 24 hours,” spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

The public is a key component in searches as well and “credible information is critical to all investigations,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

While Gold Alerts are rescinded when police learn of a safe location, the unresolved cases continue on pending active status as a search continues. Police publicly release updated information when a missing person is found.

Contact numbers for DSP troops and local police are included in alerts and notification that calling 911 is another option. Police actively search as well.

As of last week, DSP and all local agencies had issued 91 Gold Alerts this year. There were 201 in 2018.

In Dover, each officer is notified through email and daily roll call meetings.

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