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CMPD not issuing Silver Alerts for missing seniors

For a year and a half, North Carolina has had a system for issuing statewide alerts when a person with cognitive problems goes missing. They're called Silver Alerts because they're usually used to help find older people with conditions like Alzheimer's. Police departments across the state have issued more than 200 Silver Alerts since 2007. Mecklenburg County is conspicuously missing from that list. It's not that people with dementia don't go missing in Mecklenburg County. CMPD Detective Lee Tuttle says last year more than 3,100 missing people were reported to the department and about a hundred of them were 55 or older. However, CMPD did not issue a statewide Silver Alert in any of those cases. Detective Tuttle says CMPD just hasn't felt the need. "It doesn't mean it won't happen tomorrow or the next day," says Tuttle. "It just hasn't come up yet. And you know, we have a great relationship with our local media, and that's been enough so far." That explanation is frustrating to Lois Hogan who manages the Silver Alert program from the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. She's tried to get every law enforcement agency in the state on board with issuing Silver Alerts - whether or not they think they can find the missing person without one. "It brings a lot more attention to the fact that we have a missing endangered person that needs help," says Hogan. "And it also allows us to reach out to the media and the citizens of North Carolina to help us find this person." Typically a family member or caregiver will report someone missing to the police, who can then request a Silver Alert from Hogan's department. That triggers statewide notice to the media and other police departments. The alert can also go up on highway billboards. Tuttle says CMPD's missing persons unit is well-equipped to do all of that on its own. So are the police departments in Wake County, but they've issued more than 20 Silver Alerts. "It is one vehicle that's available to police departments. We have chose to use it," says Jim Sughrue, a spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department. "But I don't know that it offers much in the way of an advantage in terms of just putting out a release from the police department saying we're looking for somebody to help ensure their well-being." The counties using Silver Alerts the most in North Carolina have proven to be smaller ones like Wilson, Orange and Halifax County where Lieutenant Bobby Martin works missing persons cases. "I'm going to be honest with you," says Martin. "I think every agency needs to have a standard procedure for Silver Alerts. They are very helpful. It is a little more tedious and time consuming. But putting for that effort for a family that has a missing loved one, gives them the view that 'Hey they're really going above and beyond.'" Even without using Silver Alerts, Detective Lee Tuttle says CMPD's recovery rate for missing people is very high. That includes children who are missing and feared abducted. Of the more than 50 Amber Alerts issued in North Carolina since the state started that system, Mecklenburg County has only issued one. It happened to be North Carolina's very first statewide Amber Alert on August 27, 2003. The infant was found safe.