Saving Lives: A Team Effort

Thanks to the resources available to DRPS, we were able to deliver another positive outcome for our community when a senior with Alzheimers went missing at night in a dense rural area of Scugog. Without these resources, this could have been a tragedy. These positive outcomes don’t happen by chance. They are the result of having experienced, professional members – sworn and civilian as well as essential resources at our disposal.

Durham Region is the largest geographical jurisdiction in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), stretching from Lake Ontario in the south to Lake Simcoe in the north. We are responsible for policing 2,535 square kilometres which includes a mixture of urban and rural areas.  

On November 7 at approximately 11:50 p.m., an 86-year-old female with Alzheimer’s was reported missing from a very large rural property in Scugog. The property houses numerous outbuildings and is surrounded by farmland.  She was not dressed for the weather, she did not have cellphone and had no access to a vehicle and could be anywhere.

Members from North division were immediately dispatched to attend the female’s address to speak with her family. While this was happening, several other units began an initial search of the immediate property.   Officers stayed with the family to provide them comfort while the mobilization of all our available resources began. These included, uniformed members on the front-line, our Public Order Unit, drone, Air1,K9 units and our 911/communications team.

All of these resources were brought together in order to locate the missing elderly female as quickly as possible.

After an initial ground search was unsuccessful in locating the female, concern grew as she was not dressed for the weather and temperatures continued to drop below freezing, Air1 was called to assist uniform members in locating this very high-risk missing person. 

Air1 is a crucial asset to DRPS, especially in life-or-death situations like this when time is of the essence. This helicopter has a critical role in assisting with searches throughout Durham Region. Air1 is outfitted with cameras and a thermal imaging system. In this incident in particular Air1 was able to search the area in a fraction of the time it would have taken officers on the ground.

At 1:33 a.m., Air1 located the missing female kneeling down in a nearby field.  The tactical flight officer guided officers to the female who was then treated by paramedics. She is expected to make a full recovery despite being in cold temperatures for several hours.

Incidents like this take more than just one resource.  Without Air1, without our drones, without boots on the ground, without members of our Public Order Unit and K9 unit, these situations might not result in the successful outcomes that we and our community expect and deserve.   Because of all these resources available to us, a potentially life-threatening incident had a positive outcome.

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