Ocean County Press Release
Silver Alert System Aids in Searches

TOMS RIVER – Noting November is recognized as Alzheimer's Awareness Month and Family Caregivers month, Ocean County public and law enforcement officials joined with state representatives to raise awareness about the importance of the newly implemented Silver Alert System.

"Law enforcement in Ocean County knows the importance of implementing programs that will help our older adults, their caregivers and the more vulnerable residents of the county," said Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford. "Much like anything else though, unless people are made aware of the importance of Silver Alert it won't do much to help those individuals that may go missing because of Alzheimer's or a cognitive impairment regardless of age."

Under the law, the state Attorney General established a "Silver Alert System" which provides a statewide system for the rapid dissemination of information regarding a missing person who is believed to be suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairment.

"The more eyes and ears you have aware of a missing person, the better," said Ford, who was joined by Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari and 9th District State Sen. Christopher Connors at an awareness kickoff at the Ocean County Administration Building.

Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as Chairman of Senior Services in Ocean County, noted this program has special significance in Ocean County because of the large senior population that lives here.

"With more than 160,000 seniors living in Ocean County and with an increasing number of people 85 and over, it's important that people are made aware of what Silver Alert means," Vicari said. "We don't want motorists to see the words Silver Alert on the overhead LED signs on Route 37 and not be aware of its significance."

He noted it was also important to get the information out to caregivers, because these are the individuals who are charged with the safety and welfare of aging adults in Ocean County.

According to Sgt. Cindy Boyd of the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, local law enforcement will be provided with training so the Silver Alert Program has positive results in Ocean County.

"When it comes to a missing person, you can never have too much information," said Ocean County Sheriff's Department Chief Michael Osborn, who helps oversee Ocean County's Project Lifesaver Program.

In 2003, members of the Ocean County Sheriff's Department with the support of the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders initiated a program that reduces the amount of time it takes to successfully conclude a search for a person who is lost in particular those people who have Alzheimer's disease or suffer from other dementias.

Under the program Project Lifesaver, an individual is equipped with a bracelet that holds a transmitter. Each transmitter has a separate radio frequency that allows sheriff's officers to hone in on a missing individual who is wearing a bracelet.

Today, 52 individuals are equipped with these bracelets in Ocean County including 21 adults and 31 children. The program has had many success stories including 10 searches where the person was found within 10 to 15 minutes of being reported missing.

Silver Alert complements programs like Project Lifesaver, Vicari said.

"More than 50 percent of people who have Alzheimer's can develop the tendency to wander. Many of them repeat their actions. If they are outside for more than 24 hours their chance of survival drops by 50 percent," Osborn said.

"Because time is of the essence we want people to understand the significance of Silver Alert," said Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. "We encourage family members and caregivers to contact their local police department immediately when a person who suffers from some form of dementia wanders away."

According to Silver Alert criteria, the person believed to be missing is believed to be suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairment regardless of age; a missing person's report has been submitted to the local law enforcement agency where the person went missing; the person believed to be missing may be in danger of death or serious injury and there is sufficient information that a Silver Alert would assist in locating the missing person.

"There is a spirit of cooperation that will make this measure successful," said Sen. Connors. "This law brings all the resources together to make sure we bring this individual – a mother, a father, a grandparent - home safely."

Connors noted that New Jersey was one of 11 states to adopt the Silver Alert System.

For additional information on the Silver Alert System call Sgt. Boyd at 732-929-2027.

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