NSW Police will begin using an SMS geo-targeting alert system to help locate high-risk missing persons across the state.
The force said it is working with Telstra, Optus and TPG Telecom to implement the tool, which uses the Emergency Alert framework.
Emergency Alert is a national telephone warning system that allows emergency services to send out alerts in the event of bushfires, floods or other extreme weather conditions.
The tool is expected to be used in only high-risk circumstances, with an assessment of all available information to be undertaken before a geographically targeted SMS message is sent.
Missing persons considered at high risk include people living with dementia who may wander from their homes and young children who go missing in large crowds.
NSW Police State Crime Command director, detective chief superintended Darren Bennett, said the geo-targeting tool will be invaluable in the search for missing people.
“When this tool is used, a brief message can be sent out to all mobile devices within a defined area,” he said.
“The message can include a brief description of the missing person, as well as details of how to report a sighting.”
Bennett added that although NSW Police “now have the capabilities to use this system when there is an operational needed in NSW”, the launch date of the system “cannot be determined in advance”.
The introduction of the new tool follows the establishment of a Missing Persons Registry and the implementation of new systems and procedures in July 2019.
“With the introduction of the new Missing Persons Registry operating systems, only 18 missing person cases reached 90 days and obtained long-term status last year,” Bennett said.
“This is a significant achievement from the previous missing persons cases becoming long term which averaged 147 per year between 2015 and 2019.
“It is our hope that with the introduction of the new geo-targeting tool, that we are able to reduce this number even further.”