The Ponoka RCMP is regularly inundated with calls about missing persons and requests to locate, and while they take each and every case very seriously, Acting Detachment Commander and Operations NCO Sgt. Chris Smiley is questioning why there are so many repeat cases from the same places.
“We work closely with our partners in various agencies in an effort to locate quickly with a concern for their safety,” said Smiley.
The Ponoka RCMP receives missing person reports or requests to locate almost every day, according to Smiley.
In the bulk of missing person files out of Ponoka, the person has not disappeared, been abducted or in otherwise come to harm, but is either a youth or patient in care that has simply walked away from a group home or care facility without being authorized to leave, he says.
The detachment also sees a lot of repeat missing persons files, where the same individuals are leaving care time after time.
“At a division level we are exploring policies surrounding a caretaker’s responsibility when a youth leaves of their own accord.”
In 2018, the Ponoka RCMP handled a total of 184 missing persons files or requests to locate.
Of that number, 49 were patients in care, 27 were youths in group homes and 108 were other missing person files or requests to locate.
In 2019, there have already been 26 files generated for patients in care leaving unauthorized from different facilities within Ponoka, and eight from group homes, and 52 other cases.
The RCMP’s goal in releasing these numbers is to “raise awareness for the public.”
According to www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca, there is no minimum waiting time before someone can file a missing persons report or make a request to locate.
Once a report or request is filed, it invokes a full missing persons protocol and requires a lot of police resources, says Smiley.
Sending out a missing persons release with a photo is one of the first steps the RCMP takes when it opens a missing persons file, and it does tend to generate some tips.
The leg-work also begins of locating family members, speaking to associates, re-tracing steps and making social media inquiries until the person is found.
The Ponoka RCMP detachment had no open missing persons files as of May 3.