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New tech tool used in search for missing Kitchener man

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Waterloo regional police used a new tech tool as part of their search for a missing elderly man this week.

The 84-year-old was reported missing in Kitchener around 9 p.m. on May 14.

According to police, officers searched the Bankside Drive area throughout the night but were unable to find the man.

“Our mission on every search is to find a missing person in the least amount of time, in the best possible condition,” said Staff Sgt. Jarrett Brown. “If that person fits a certain profile, that if we don't find them they may be injured or severely hurt or die from exposure, we will activate a comprehensive ground search.”

By Wednesday morning, there was already a large police presence at the Real Canadian Superstore parking lot on Highland Road.

“If we believe they're an imminent risk, we will activate a comprehensive ground search which will result in search managers being brought in to manage the search,” Brown added. “Officers who have special search and rescue training, our K-9 team, our remotely piloted vehicle members of our auxiliary team will respond.”

The missing man was eventually located around 6:30 p.m. and given first aid.

Police said even with a large police presence, help from the public is essential.

“We can't do this on our own, we rely on our community members to call in, to report things that might look suspicious, report sightings,” said Brown. “Ultimately a community member is the person responsible, I believe, for saving this person's life.”

This was the first missing person search where WRPS tried out a new tool – an app called Alert Waterloo Region, used to warn residents of emergencies.

Police said they’ll now be using the app to help find other missing people.

“If you're receiving that alert, it means someone’s gone missing in your area and you would be able to take a look around your property, check your video cameras, and keep your eyes open for anything that might be relevant about the missing person.”

How you can help

When it comes to finding missing and vulnerable people, experts recommend using trackable technology.

“If it was me that had dementia or it was a family member, I would certainly encourage the use of something simple like an Apple Watch,” said Laura Middleton, research chair in dementia and active living at the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA).

Looking at the bigger picture, she feels communities need a better understanding of medical conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“Our best case scenario would be that people with dementia don't feel stigma, so they feel comfortable disclosing their diagnosis and their communities both know them, but also understand dementia and how to support people so that there's a comfort in engaging,” Middleton explained.

She added that something as simple as recognizing the signs of confusion could go along way in preventing these situations.

“I think even knowing the [person’s] name is helpful in terms of that initial connection so that the person doesn't feel fear, but recognizes you as someone who may know them.”

Middleton said don’t be afraid to approach someone who appears disoriented, but to call for help if you are unable to provide assistance.

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