Scarborough group calling on police to alert it when people go missing

Alura Moores, president of Rosewood Taxpayers' Association, wants police to have stronger community partnerships to help when people with illnesses like dementia go missing.

Alura Moores unsuccessfully tried to find out what happened when 84-year-old went missing March 16

Alura Moores put up this sign in her neighbourhood when she found out an 84-year-old man disappeared in her Scarborough neighbourhood. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

When Alura Moores's husband noticed police cars and horse trailers filling the church parking lots across the street from their house in Scarborough, the couple tried to find out what was going on. 

"When I called the police station, they said, 'We can't tell you,'" said Moores, president of the Rosewood Taxpayers' Association.

Twenty-four hours later, she found out Shou Ren Luo, 84, had gone missing in the area. He had dementia and diabetes. Police found him dead days later. 

Shou Ren Luo, 84, had dementia and diabetes. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

1,000 members

"I feel, as an association and community, we could have done more," Moores told CBC Toronto. "We have the ability to access our members through emails, knocking on doors, volunteer lists. I think there was a real missing opportunity. It has serious and real consequences. 

"We have a thousand members in our community. If there's a way to create a system where it's an easy phone call for [police], I think we need to arrange that and find a way to make it work because it's going to save lives in the future." 

Toronto police say making that phone call is a challenge.

Toronto police spokesperson Victor Kwong says police issue news releases and use social media when someone goes missing. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

"When our officers are working on this, we can't redirect resources to making outbound calls," said police spokesperson Victor Kwong. "We have one point of contact, which is the news releases." 

Emails and social media

Currently, police issue calls for the public's help in finding missing persons through emails and social media, but Moores says that's not good enough. 

"Not everyone is paying attention," she said. "We all have busy lives. Someone knocking on your door, having a visual representation, signs. That all helps." 

Toronto police in 42 Division are setting up a meeting with groups in the area to see how they can work together in the future.

Police are also looking into a phone app that's being developed to alert residents about missing people based on geographic location, though they say it's too early to give any details.