Editorial: Knopp is right to call for Silver Alerts

Silver Alert programs for vulnerable adults are similar to Amber Alerts that help locate missing children. State Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, wants to ensure all Oregon law enforcement agencies have Silver Alerts in place.

Knopp told The Oregonian that his 75-year-old mother has wandered off three times in the past two years. She has dementia and was found safe every time. He wants a coordinated effort by law enforcement to help other families through such situations.

Many agencies already have some sort of program. He is proposing legislation for the February session to require it. We haven’t seen the bill’s proposed language, but Knopp told The Oregonian he didn’t think it would force every agency to change an existing program.

The legislation would require programs for adults who have developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injuries or other conditions that make them vulnerable. That’s similar to the programs in some 40 other states.

Typically, such programs don’t change the initial approach for any law enforcement incident. After an officer assesses a situation, the officer could then request that a supervisor activate a Silver Alert.

Many missing adults wander off only in the immediate area. That’s why Silver Alerts tend to start with notification of neighborhoods. In some states, a statewide alert is only sent out if the individual is believed to have been using a vehicle. But no matter how far they may go, because of their mental state, the individuals could suffer from exposure, lack of food and water and become injured or die.

Some departments have registry programs. Families can register an individual in advance, because a family is concerned or because of a previous incident. A family can give law enforcement information, such as a picture and other information to put into a database. That can speed up the process if an incident does occur.

The proposed legislation is scheduled to be discussed today in a legislative committee.

Knopp has identified an important topic for law enforcement, senior groups and legislators. We hope it will be able to be satisfactorily turned into legislation in this short session.