As we begin the process of reaching out to Law Enforcement to partner as part of our Search Ready Communities program we have come across some push back. Agencies are rightly concerned about using untrained or skilled volunteers directly from spontaneous community members. Many of their concerns are justified and part of using a service such as Destiny Search Project is to mitigate these concerns when communities do come out to help. Before we address several of those issues directly we would like to share this analogy as it gives a clear sense of how we feel.
Yes, our above analogy is blunt. When a person is missing though every second counts in possibly saving a life. So now we would like to address a few of the comments we have come across in the past ten years. We want to also be clear our goal is to work together to find the best possible solution in each case.
A common response is that of community-based volunteers not being trained or certified as SAR. As in the analogy we understand that and SAR has a very special and unique role using their expertise in specific situations. We never intend to use volunteers in rugged terrain, bad weather, or searches that could put thier lives at risk. Actually using a service such as ours will reduce the possibility of people going out completely on their own with no direction or briefing. Every one of our searches has a briefing that outlines important factors not just on safety but in what to do if something is found, where not to go when searching and other items that we have added through work with Law Enforcement, FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the past.
Another item that has been brought to our attention in the past was the need for background checks. There are legitimate reasons this is needed but in many cases, it can delay things. We do however require identification of all volunteers and record it into our database and verify it. That information is available in real-time to Law Enforcement to do any checks as needed, Without a service in place such as ours, this would never be tracked.
Lastly, a few items that benefit Law Enforcement by using a coordinated system for community-based volunteers. Members of the community can be a force multiplier, by teaming up with an officer or SAR member we can make one person become a team of many. Having an organization take on responsibility for volunteer management frees up resources from agencies to work on critical activities. At times we have, and can direct volunteers to specific areas that could be away from the area agencies are focusing on. We also want to point out that we can assist in many forms of missing persons, not just the high profile events. We have worked on cases of Autistic young adults, children that wandered off, Elderly with dementia.
The final thought for you to consider is not as much about the Law Enforcement aspect. it is about the family missing their loved one. We can provide not just support based on experience and also trained social work staff but we rally a community behind them in their darkest time of need, Bringing in dozens, or hundreds of community members to show support is something that can help families feel that they are not facing this alone.
We hope that this will give you a moment of pause to think about using community-based volunteers in the future if needed. Though we believe we offer a comprehensive package of services free of charge to families and communities we want to point out something. This is not about Destiny Search Project, it is about that person who is missing and their loved ones. No matter what plan you end up implementing please put one together, Use your own system, SAR, another organization, it doesn’t matter who just that you are ready when someone goes missing in your community.
If you have further questions or would like to work on a plan for your agency or community please feel free to contact us.