“My mother had just disappeared on the way back from the sauna. She suffers from dementia and I wasn’t able to find her no matter how hard I looked. I don’t even have a photo of her…” the voice trailed off urgently and desperately over the phone at 10:50 a.m. on Sunday. He had called the police office at Mapo Police Station in Seoul to seek help to find his mother (aged 81) whom he had lost in front of a sauna building in Dowha-dong, Mapo-gu.
The son appeared to half-stricken with concern as he talked on the phone. He kept sobbing and continued to say that he wasn’t sure when asked about what his mother looked like and and had been wearing. The only clue about the mother was that she had gone missing around 9:30 a.m.
An idea occurred to the police officer who had received the phone call: the National Police Office Agency’s profiling system. When the officer typed in the mother’s name on the system, photo and personal information details, which had been registered by her family, were retrieved. The officer confirmed the information with the son, who replied, “That’s right, it’s my mother.”
The police dispatched three patrol vehicles in the neighborhood to look for the mother. Generally, the chances of finding a missing person grows lower as time passes. Thanks to quick information access, the police was able to locate the mother near a commercial building of an apartment complex that was one kilometer away from where she had been first reported as lost. An hour had passed since she was reported missing.
The National Policy Office Agency’s profiling system, which holds information of elderly dementia patients, the mentally challenged and children under 18 years, registered by their families, has proved to be very effective in locating missing persons. “Time is critical to finding missing persons, even a single second or minute counts. Thanks to the profiling system, the mother was able to save time and return home safely,” said a police officer.
Despite the history of the system, there is a relatively small number of elderly dementia patients registered on the system. According to the police, the majority of the information on the system is related to children. As of December 2020, there are only 166,126 (27.1%) out of a total of 612,724 dementia patients that have registered fingerprint and photographs.
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