Madera County Sheriff John Anderson sees a potential bonus for Madera County senior citizens when the "Silver Alert" notification system goes into effect Jan. 1.
This notification system mirrors the already existing Amber Alert, but instead of activating public searches for children, Silver Alert will allow law enforcement agencies to request advisories for missing seniors.
Upon activation of a Silver Alert, California Highway Patrol shall assist the investigating law enforcement agency by issuing a lookout alert, an Emergency Digital Information Service message, or an electronic flyer.
As with Amber Alert, Silver Alert will be coordinated by CHP. Before an advisory can be issued, the missing person must meet a certain set of criteria. Included among those conditions, the person who has gone missing is "in danger due to age, health, mental or physical disability."
Sheriff Anderson says clients of Madera County Sheriff's Operation Lost & Found program fall under this category. Operation Lost & Found has been in effect since 2004. However, Anderson says, as good as it is, the system isn't fool-proof, because the radio tracking system designed to locate those who are prone to wander, only works in Madera County.
"What if an Operation Lost & Found client were to wander beyond the county line?" Anderson says that is when Silver Alert will step into play.
In the eight years Operation Lost & Found has been in operation, Anderson said two clients vanished and were eventually located outside his jurisdiction.
In one case, a Valley man left his home in the family car. He was gone almost two days before he was found by chance. Checking on what appeared to be a stranded motorist, A CHP officer found him near Kettleman City -- 80 miles from his home. He was hungry, disoriented, dehydrated and scared.
Another client, who resides in the foothills of Madera County, also took off in the family car. He was found more than 24 hours later in Southern California -- more than 300 miles from his home.
"With Silver Alert in place, we now have an extra tool, and possibly an added edge when searches are launched for our clients -- especially those we are looking for who may no longer be in our county," Anderson said.