THUNDER BAY – The report of another missing youth in Thunder Bay has spiked a great deal of interest since it was initially reported. The young person first went missing ten days ago, and the case was reported to the public by the Thunder Bay Police Service on Friday afternoon. That the missing person is an Aboriginal youth has raised concern online in our city, especially on Facebook, about why it took ten days for the public to be made aware of the incident.
First from discussions over the past months with a number of different Thunder Bay Police officers, it is not a lack of caring that generates what some see as a slow response. Nor is it from a decision not to use all of the possible resources either according to sources. There are usually issues and information with ongoing police efforts which are not made public. That is done in order to ensure that the ongoing investigation can proceed effectively.
Some have asked why an “Amber Alert” is not declared when a young person goes missing. That question can be easily answered. The RCMP say, “In your Province, the AMBER Alert Program is a province wide innovative program which partners the Province’s law enforcement community, media broadcasting agencies and the public in location abducted children. It provides the public with immediate and up-to-date information about a child abduction by widespread media broadcasts and solicits the public’s help in the safe and swift return of the child.
“AMBER Alert is a comprehensive plan which provides a coordinated and rapid response to child abductions throughout your Province. It is a voluntary, cooperative program between police services and local broadcasters to send an emergency alert to the public when a child has been abducted and it is believed that his/her life is in grave danger.
“An AMBER Alert can only be activated by a specified person who is an authorized user and it is only to be used for a serious child abduction”. “Another requirement is that the information must include facts that, if disseminated to the general public, could assist in the safe recovery of the victim, (ie: description of suspect’s vehicle, lic. plate number, suspect is known).”
Perhaps what is needed is another level of alert for missing youth? In Northwestern Ontario in particular if a young person goes missing, especially in the winter, cold weather conditions can put added risk and danger to the situation. As well, a history of young Aboriginal people, attending secondary school in Thunder Bay going missing and later turning up dead means that speed is of the essense.
There is it appears room for greater engagement on part of the public as well perhaps as a need for a co-ordinated effort toward searching for missing young people. In many ways members of the public are starting to do that on their own, by sharing information. Social media often works far faster than any other reporting, and in the case of missing people speed is important. The other side of course is that there is a need for the protection and privacy of young people too.
The real task of locating missing youth is one that it will take efforts by more people, not just the police, to really make a difference. Fortunately in Thunder Bay there are a growing number of people who are working toward making a difference. Perhaps the real solution will come when things are such in our community that kids don’t want to run away in the first place. Yeah, I know I am being an idealist again.
But I would, to be very blunt, rather be an idealist than not.
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