MCSC rescu app offers new hope in search for missing children
Calgary – A new web app that directly engages the public in the search for missing children has been unveiled by The Missing Children Society of Canada.
Among its functions, MCSC rescu uses SMS alerts about missing children targeted to the locations of people who have registered with the app.
MCSC rescu is also updated continually with information from police on missing children in Canada. All users can view active cases by region and submit tips on cases to police through the web app. They can also register and opt in to receive SMS text alerts on their smartphones specific to cases in their area that police want to highlight. Since MCSC rescu is a web app, no download is required. It is accessible via any browser and across desktop and mobile devices.
The app was developed by Toronto-based Esri Canada, a geographic information system (GIS) provider, for the Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC), a Calgary-based non-profit organization that works with police across Canada in the search for missing children.
It’s the latest innovation in an evolution that has taken an organization that relied on posters 30 years ago, to one that employs the latest technology in the search for a missing child.
“Technology is often spoken of as a risk,“ said Amanda Pick, CEO of the Missing Children Society of Canada. “ But it can also be used to protect children and help police.
“With the MCSC rescu web app, we’re able to share information with the police and the public through easy-to-understand dynamic maps, and push alerts to people in specific locations, even down to a street,” she said. “This allows us to find children faster, but we need every single Canadian to help us.”
Thousands of children go missing in Canada every year, but fewer than one per cent of those cases are broadcast to the public through AMBER Alerts. While police remain on the front line in the searches for missing children, having responded to 42,233 reports across Canada in 2018, members of the public increasingly play an important role in helping bring children to safety.
Judy Peterson, whose daughter Lindsey Nicholls went missing 26 years ago, told the news conference that at the initial time of her disappearance she went around her B.C. community with tape and posters in an effort to engage the public in the search.
Lindsey, who was 14 at the time she disappeared, has never been found, but Peterson believes MCSC rescu would have made a difference. She encouraged people to download the app and register for alerts.
“I truly believe that if this technology was available when Lindsey went missing, we would have known what happened.”
“Losing a child is one the most tragic experiences anyone can have,” said Esri Canada President Alex Miller. “We’re proud to be able to contribute with our technology to ensure that when a child goes missing, we have a response mechanism ready to tackle the situation without losing any time. Being able to address threats to public safety using location intelligence adds meaning and purpose to our work.”
Two police departments in Alberta – Calgary Police Service and Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service – were the first to adopt the web app in their missing children investigations.
“Public safety is a shared responsibility,” said Superintendent Cliff O’Brien, Calgary Police Service. ”MCSC rescu is an excellent example of how all of us, whether you’re an individual or an organization, can work together towards a single objective: to find a missing child. I encourage everyone across Canada to use this technology and help bring our missing children back to safety.”
O’Brien encouraged Canadians across the country to download the web app and register to receive alerts.
“Every pair of eyes and ears in our community can be the difference between life and death for the missing child,” O’Brien said.
Steve Burton, Inspector with Tsuut’ina Nation Police told the news conference that there is a crisis with children in Indigenous communities and MCSC rescu is a welcome tool as it brings more people into the search for missing kids with police.
“Our society needs to take responsibility for our children and this is one piece of the puzzle,” Burton said. “This … will allow members of the community to commicate in real time and become involved when these children go missing. That’s one of the big important things with this app.”
MCSC rescu FAQ:
- What is MCSC rescu?
MCSC rescu is a new web app that will help find missing children in Canada faster by empowering members of public to immediately join in the search.
- What can I do with the MCSC rescu app?
You can use MCSC rescu to:
- view open and active missing children cases in Canada by region via interactive story maps.
- submit tips on missing children cases via the web app.
- register to receive SMS text alerts on your mobile phone about new missing children cases in your area.
- How are MCSC rescu alerts different from AMBER Alerts?
AMBER Alerts are issued by police only when a missing child under age 18 is believed to have been abducted and is in imminent danger. They are mandatory and sent through the National Public Alerting system to mobile phones and on broadcast media, through social media and on electronic highway signs.
AMBER Alerts include the name and a description of the abducted child, who he or she might be with and descriptions of any vehicle suspected of being used in the alleged abduction. They are broadcast to a large geographic area (e.g. Northern Alberta, Southern Alberta) and received based on real-time location.
The MCSC rescu alert is issued by the Missing Children Society in conjunction with police. They are Issued only after an investigating team has defined the perimeter of the search and are only issued to people who have registered with MCSC to receive the text alerts.
Text alerts from MCSC rescu include the name of the missing child, the place where he or she is from and a link to the case on the MCSC rescu site. They are issued when new missing children cases are reported to police and the public’s help is needed.
MCSC rescu alerts can be targeted to a smaller, more specific geographic area (e.g. city or street). The alert is received based on the location you specify when you register for MCSC rescu alerts.
- Will I still receive AMBER Alerts if I subscribe to MCSC rescu?
Yes, you will still receive AMBER Alerts issued by police. MCSC will also add AMBER Alert cases to the story maps on the MCSC rescu site to amplify search efforts but will not resend AMBER Alerts by text.
- Will I be able to send tips on cases?
Yes. You can send anonymous tips through the web app even without registering for MCSC rescu alerts
- When do I use MCSC rescu and when do I call 911?
When you’re in need of immediate assistance (e.g. you witnessed a child abduction), call 911.
If you have important information on an existing case you saw on MCSC rescu, you can submit a tip through the app.
- If I sign up for the app, how frequently will I receive alerts?
Realistically, don’t expect that many. Police will only ask that an SMS alert be pushed for the most urgent cases. And you will only receive an alert that’s specific to the location you have indicated when registering for the app. So, for example, if you have registered Calgary as your location, you will not receive an SMS alert about a missing child in Medicine Hat.
You can, however, use the MCSC rescu app to see cases of missing children across Canada.
- Will I be billed for the text alerts I receive?
Text messaging & data rates may apply based on your mobile subscription plan.
- How can I access the app on my desktop?
Type rescu.mcsc.ca on your preferred web browser. Bookmark the link so you can easily revisit the app.
- How can I access the app on my mobile phone?
Type rescu.mcsc.ca on your mobile browser. You can also save this site on your home screen by clicking on the ‘Add to homepage’ option on your iOS or Android phone.
- How do I register to receive MCSC rescu SMS text alerts on my mobile phone?
Text the following to 79438:
MCSC city,province (e.g. MCSC Calgary, AB)
To be clear, type MCSC, then leave a space, type your city, a comma, and then your province. (e.g. MCSC Saskatoon,SK)
- Will my location be tracked in real time?
No. The app only requires you to enter a location once during the registration process so you can receive alerts for missing children cases in and around that area. When you travel to a different location, you will only receive alerts for the location you initially specified during registration. If you choose, you can update your location as you travel.
- How will my personal information be used?
There is no personal information collected other than the 10-digit phone number used when registering to receive SMS texts should police send one out in the area. No other information is collected or used for any reasons. Should users choose to unsubscribe from the MCSC rescu app, simply text “MCSC stop” to 79438.
- How will police use this technology?
If a child goes missing in our community, police would work with MCSC to push out information via MCSC rescu to select locations. As more information becomes available, police have the ability update the information available on MCSC rescu to aid in the search.