(TRENTON) – To assure the safety of a missing person believed to be suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairments, Assembly Democrats Angela McKnight, Annette Quijano, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, and Annette Chaparro sponsor a measure cleared by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee on Wednesday requiring the “Silver Alert System” receive the same broadcast alerts as the Amber Alert System.
The bill (A-1755) requires media outlets, when responding to a “Silver Alert,” to broadcast a distinctive sound tone and the statement: “This is a Missing Person Silver Alert.” The alert is to include a description of the missing person and other information the enforcement agency deems appropriate. The alerts should also provide information concerning how members of the public who have information relating to the missing person may contact the lead law enforcement agency or the Missing Persons and Child Exploitation Unit in the Division of the State Police.
“Currently, ‘Silver Alerts’ are seen on billboards on highways and can be sent as text messages as the local media and law enforcement agency see fit, and this bill will provide more of a visual aid in order to reach out to a broader audience,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “This will be helpful in protecting our residents, particularly dementia and Alzheimer’s patients who could become disoriented and frightened which, as a result, could put them in particularly more severe danger.”
Under the bill, the lead law enforcement agency will be required to, in a timely manner, update the media with new information regarding the missing person when appropriate.
“Silver Alerts can be used for older citizens with Alzheimer’s or dementia, who often wander away from their homes and become disoriented when they are outside of their comfort zones,” said Quijano (D-Union). “By putting these alerts on television, especially more frequently, caretakers will be able to locate their patients or loved ones far more easily.”
The Silver Alert is to be broadcast as often as possible, under the guidelines established by the New Jersey Broadcasters Association for the first three hours. The alert will also be rebroadcast at the intervals the lead law enforcement agency and the participating media deem appropriate.
“Any extra exposure we can add to find missing people is certainly something we should do,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “Ultimately, this will lead to more of them, especially cognitively deficient elderly individuals, being reunited with their loved ones faster.”
“This legislation will expedite the communication process between media agencies and law enforcement, which can then be disseminated to the public,” said Chaparro (D-Hudson). “The more efficient the communication process, the more likely it is we can find missing persons.”
The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.