Toronto

Scarborough group wants police to contact neighbourhood associations when people go missing

Cathryne Mougan knows first-hand the worry that comes with searching for a loved one. That's why she wants Toronto Police to create an official protocol that includes contacting neighbourhood groups when people go missing.

Rosewood Taxpayers' Association president creating database of groups police can contact

Cathryine Mougan hopes police will contact neighbourhood associations when people go missing in their neighbourhoods. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

Cathyrine Mougan, a long time resident of the Rosewood area in Scarborough, has a stepfather who suffers from dementia. He's wandered off twice. 

"They did a massive search," she said. "We called the police. After four hours, they found him." 

That's why she's supporting the Rosewood Taxpayers' Association's push to get the Toronto Police Service to create an official protocol that involves contacting neighbourhood groups when someone in the area goes missing. 

"It's very important to contact the community.  [It can be] a big help," Mougan told CBC Toronto. "They can ask people to help to look. They can knock on peoples' houses, or neighbours can look in their backyard, sheds. A lot of eyes is very important." 

Alura Moores, the association's president, is spearheading the initiative. Since late March, when 84-year-old Shou Ren Luo disappeared, Moores has been trying to get police at 42 Division on board. At the time, she told CBC Toronto she could not get information from police when she saw them in the area looking for Luo. Days later, he was found dead in the area. 

'An epidemic'

"It's becoming an epidemic," she said. "It's going to happen more. If we don't taken action now, there are people who will lose their lives or become seriously injured as a result of a delay where we can step in and help." 

Since the winter, she said an officer at 42 Division agreed "there's a lot of value to be had in contacting associations in specific circumstances like this" and that they're now in the process of figuring out "how the logistics work." 

Alura Moores, president of the Rosewood Taxpayers' Association, is creating a database of neighbourhood groups. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

Next week, Moores will outline for the Toronto Police Services Board what she hopes will become part of police protocol. Her suggestions include: 

  • Contacting neighbourhood associations in proximity to the search area.
  • Making accessible information on willing neighbourhood associations and contacts. 
  • Giving neighbourhood associations a list of key points on how to assist police. 
  • Creating a more effective system for getting the word out that someone is missing. 

Liability issues 

Toronto city councillor Chin Lee says involving people in police matters is complicated.

Coun. Chin Lee, who represents Ward 41, Scarborough-Rouge River and sits on the Toronto Police Services Board, said getting community groups involved in police cases is complicated.

He mentions liability issues as an example, though he agrees the issues Moores brings up need to be addressed. 

"We need to explore that to see what additional alerts could have been put out in the future to make the public aware and... how we can better connect with the community because everyone's concerned," he said.

Still, Moores is urging Toronto Police to consider what's at stake.

"We need leadership from the Toronto Police Services. It has to come from the top," she said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Xing is a journalist by trade and a historian by degree. She's also a creative writer, photographer and traveller. Email her at Lisa.Xing@cbc.ca.

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