The Silver Alert Program

July 15th, 2019

By now, many of us are familiar with the Amber Alert program for missing children. There is now a Silver Alert program to assist with finding an older adult over the age of 60 who may have dementia, Alzheimer's, or other cognitive impairment and has gone missing.

About 6 in 10 dementia sufferers will wander away from caregivers at least once, according to a 2010 article from the New York Times[1]. Given that our senior citizen population only continues to grow, that means a great many people could be at risk. Twenty-eight states now include a Silver Alert program, with Utah being the latest just this year, and nine more have similar alert programs known by alternate names.

We have this program in Maryland as of 2009 and it allows law enforcement agencies to broaden the search and enlist additional help in finding a missing individual with cognitive impairments.

The criteria for a Silver Alert in Maryland is as follows:

  • The missing person is at least 60 years of age, AND
  • The missing person suffers a cognitive impairment, including a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease or Dementia, AND
  • The missing person's disappearance poses a credible threat to the health and safety of the individual, AND
  • The missing person is traveling in a vehicle and there is enough descriptive information about the missing person and the vehicle for law enforcement to issue an alert, AND
  • The investigating agency has already activated a local or regional alert by contacting media outlets in their jurisdiction, AND
  • The missing person has been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC)​

There are no national rates of success available, since the programs aren't a single nationwide entity. Individual states may publish their retrieval rates through their state police agencies.

Find more information about Maryland's Silver Alert Program here: https://mdsp.maryland.gov/Organization/Pages/CriminalInvestigationBureau/CriminalEnforcementDivision/SilverAlert.aspx

[1] Johnson, Kirk. May 4, 2010. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/us/05search.html