Police Announce new System for Locating Missing Persons

Harrisburg – The public can help locate missing persons who may be in danger because of factors such as age or health through a new advisory system announced today by acting Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan.

“The Missing Endangered Person Advisory System — or MEPAS — will likely be used most often when an elderly person with a disability or a young child wanders away from their home or caregiver,” Noonan said. “MEPAS will provide information about the missing individual to broadcasters to relay to the public. The information also will be sent to law enforcement and other agencies.”

Noonan stressed that MEPAS is not to be confused with the Pennsylvania Amber Alert System, which uses emergency alerts to notify the public about kidnapped children deemed to be in imminent danger.

“The Pennsylvania Amber Alert System, which was established in 2002 and also is operated by State Police, provides information about child abductions through television and radio broadcast messages and various other means,” Noonan said. “MEPAS is not designed to be used for such cases.”

The General Assembly last year passed a bill establishing MEPAS and designated the State Police to develop and operate the system.

Noonan said a MEPA will be issued only when all of the following criteria are met:

· The circumstances of the incident do not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert;
· The individual is missing under unexplained, involuntary or suspicious circumstances;
· The person is thought to be in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions, or is known to be in the company of a potentially dangerous person;
· The requesting police agency is conducting an active investigation and has entered the missing person into the National Crime Information Center database, and
· Sufficient information is available to help the public identify the person.
Noonan said a MEPA message typically will provide a description of the missing person and their attire, along with information on where the person was last seen.

Noonan offered the following examples of instances in which a MEPA may be requested:

· An elderly dementia patient leaves a residential facility in poor weather conditions without the knowledge of the staff;
· A young child walks away from his mother in an area of heavy traffic;
· A seriously ill person with a mental disability wanders off without their medication.

MEPAs will be sent to all television and radio broadcasters providing coverage in the general area of the incident. Individual broadcasters will determine how and when to present the information to the public. For example, Noonan said, the information may be presented as a scrolling message on the TV screen, a voice message, or a news update.

The information also will be sent simultaneously to municipal police departments and 911 centers in the area of the incident.

Under the legislation, local police agencies are permitted to put out their own requests for assistance even if a MEPA is issued. Police agencies are not required to request a MEPA.

Noonan said MEPAS is a result of a cooperative effort by State Police, the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

For more information, visit www.psp.state.pa.us or call 717-783-5556.


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