Wisconsin DOJ’s “Silver Alert” program is saving lives: Here’s how to receive alerts

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MADISON – If you’re looking at a lottery terminal, a billboard or a highway sign on the roadside, you may end up saving a life.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice "Silver Alert" program has been activated multiple times in recent weeks when law enforcement officials have received a report of a missing adult at risk. Attorney General Brad Schimel reminded the community that June is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and the Silver Alert often can bring a missing loved one home and relief to the family.

“The Silver Alert Program is a life-saving resource in the event a loved one goes missing due to a cognitive impairment,” Attorney General Brad Schimel said. “I am heartened by the numerous success stories that show that the cooperation among law enforcement, the media and the general public can – and does - save lives.”

Silver Alerts are electronic notifications sent out through the DOJ Wisconsin Crime Alert Network.

Law enforcement officials contact the DOJ and the alerts subsequently are sent to members of the network. Subscribers include members of the media, businesses, law enforcement and the general public. The free notifications are shared via lottery terminals, digital advertising billboards, Department of Transportation message boards, social media outlets and other subscribers.

To directly receive the alerts, go to www.wisconsincrimealert.gov.

Since the program’s inception August 1st, 2014, there have been 35 Silver Alerts through the Wisconsin DOJ. Four people were found deceased, one is still missing. The average age is 77; 43% are female and 69% leave in a vehicle.

For those with a loved one who suffers from a cognitive impairment, like Alzheimer’s, dementia or another impairment which poses a threat to their health and safety, families should be prepared. Having a photo stored digitally, knowing their medical issues and having a license plate number and unique identifying features of their vehicle can save time during a crisis. Most important, families should not wait when reporting their loved one missing. People will often wait because their loved one has "gone missing before but always turned up" or they don't want to be burden to their local law enforcement agency. It is an emergency and it should be called in immediately.

The Wisconsin DOJ has issued the following Silver Alert success stories to encourage folks to become involved with this program:

  • On September 19, 2014, a Silver Alert was issued for an 84 year old man who went missing after failing to return from his favorite breakfast spot in Brookfield. A clerk at a convenience store recognized the man, who had just been in the store, from the alert posted on the lottery terminal. The clerk called police with the information and an updated alert with the targeted location was sent out.  After the second alert, another clerk at a different store also recognized the man from the alert on the lottery terminal and the man was recovered safely.
  • On October 21, 2014 a Silver Alert was issued for a 63 year old female from Green Bay. She was recovered the following day when a police officer in a hospital recognized the woman from the alert.
  • On October 27, 2014 a Silver Alert was issued for a 84 year old Outagamie County man when he failed to make the drive between his two daughters' homes.  A citizen who saw the alert recognized the man as he sat inside his car outside an area mall. When police arrived and asked the man what he was doing at the mall, he said he was waiting for his wife, who is deceased.
  • On December 21, 2014 a 75 year old man walked away from his residence in Greenfield, WI, a suburb of Milwaukee. The alert was sent out and subsequently shared with Milwaukee City bus drivers. A bus driver recognized the confused elderly man on his bus as the subject of the alert and the man was safely recovered.
  • On December 27th, 2014, a Silver Alert was issued for a 73 year old man who went missing on foot from his home in Montello. The Silver Alert was shared on a Facebook page from local media where a citizen at a McDonald's in Portage saw the post and recognized the missing man as being in that McDonald's. The missing man was safely recovered by law enforcement.
  • On January 2, 2015, a Silver Alert was issued for an 80 year old man who walked away from his home in Germantown. A citizen then called police that he had seen a man fitting the description walking through his property earlier that day. Germantown Police responded and found a fresh trail in the snow, then discovered a shoe. They continued to follow the trail for a few hundred yards until they found the missing man lying on the ground, awake and alert. He was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and is expected to make a full recovery.
  • When Albert Soschinske, a retired police officer from Hartford PD, failed to arrive at a relative's home on Easter Sunday, 4/5/15, the family notified police. Albert suffers from dementia and his whereabouts were unknown. A Silver Alert was issued on Sunday evening. The following morning Albert called a relative stating he was in Davenport, Iowa, and had run out of gas. The relative told Albert to stay there and Albert said he would but hung up without providing further details about his location. An updated Silver Alert was issued and was also sent to Iowa for dissemination. Within minutes, an officer in Davenport spotted the vehicle in the Silver Alert and Albert was located safe.
  • A Silver Alert was issued on May 27, 2015 for a man who walked away from his assisted living facility in Milwaukee. He was recovered hours later when a police officer on patrol saw a man walking down the sidewalk who matched the description of the subject of the Silver Alert. The man was recovered safely.