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

Saanich roads doused in more than 300 tonnes of salt during snowstorm

Crews cleared roads around the clock during the mid-January storm

Three Saanich councillors ask for $2-M investment into District road safety

‘I don’t want roads to be safer in 30 years, I want them safer now,’ says Coun. Ned Taylor

Hydro pole fire closes portion of Metchosin Road in Colwood

Motorists are advised to avoid the area of Metchosin Road near Royal Bay

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

‘We thought it was an earthquake,’ homeowners okay after tree falls

Mature tree falls on roof of Victoria Avenue house

VIDEO: The Victoria byelection leads a selection of today’s news stories

A selection of Greater Victoria top stories for Jan. 17

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

One last blast of winter tonight for parts of the Island before temperatures on the rise

A snowfall warning is in effect Friday including east Vancouver Island.

POLL: Has the recent snow had an impact on your daily life?

Old Man Winter had Greater Victoria in his icy grip this week.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

Most Read