Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Silver Alert offers valuable tool when seniors are missing

We won't soon be seeing Grandpa's face or Great-Aunt Shirley's height and weight on a milk carton, but we now have something that's sadly familiar for folks of missing kids: the "Silver Alert." It's the elder version of the "Amber Alert" that is quickly dispatched by law enforcement agencies when a child goes missing.

The new program relays information about a loved one's physical description, make and model of car, and last known location. Highway bulletins light up, and radio and TV stations get the word out.

It was as a result of one disappearance this year that prompted the Silver Alert program's creation. In June, an 81-year-old Largo man was found 150 miles away, in the eastbound lane of Alligator Alley near Naples. As a result, state Reps. Tom Anderson, R-Dunedin, and Kurt Kelly, R-Ocala, introduced legislation that Gov. Charlie Crist signed on Oct. 8.

It is estimated that 95 percent of people who go missing are found within a quarter mile from their home or last location seen, according to the Alzheimer's Association. But this isn't a finder's service for those times when your husband has given you the slip and is down the street playing euchre with some cohorts.

It's a life-saver for folks 60 or older who are incapacitated by Alzheimer's or other dementia. Rarely it may be used for persons 18 to 59 if it is clear that the person has an "irreversible deterioration of intellectual faculties," according to program guidelines.

People should contact their local law enforcement agency when a qualified family member goes missing. If the criteria are met, they'll issue a Silver Alert, in turn notifying the Florida Department of Law Enforcement if the person is driving a vehicle. If you're aware of a Silver Alert and see someone on the road fitting the description, or the vehicle, call 911 or *FHP (347). Be prepared to note the person's whereabouts and, if possible, the vehicle tag, location and direction of travel.

The Silver Alert program is proving popular, which is one of those bad news, good news moments. In the two and a half months that it has been in effect, approximately 20 Silver Alerts have been issued, compared with only about a dozen Amber Alerts for all of 2008, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Fewer than a dozen states have a Silver Alert program, including North Carolina, Texas, Michigan and Colorado, but one Florida legislator hopes to take the system nationwide. U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, sponsored a bill, H.R. 5898, which passed the House in September. It would allocate $5-million in grant money in the next five years to set up the system nationwide. It's now in the Senate.

Bilirakis filed the bill in March, within weeks after an 86-year-old Largo woman drove away from her assisted living home in Largo. Her car was discovered after a week about 10 miles away in the water near Clearwater Beach. She had drowned.

And then two weeks ago:

Police have issued a statewide Silver Alert for an 83-year-old woman with early stages of Alzheimer's who left her Briny Breezes home Dec. 10 to buy a sandwich and failed to return. She is 5 feet 4, 130 pounds, has gray hair and blue eyes. She was wearing a pink sweater and jeans.

A day later, police in Boynton Beach near Briny Breezes received word that law enforcement officers in Broward County had located her at a gas station in the Fort Lauderdale area 30 miles south. Alive and well.

We know what you're thinking. Take the car keys away. But that's a story for another day.

Mimi Andelman can be reached at or (727) 893-8272.


The Silver Alert

Go to and search "Silver Alert."

on the web

The Silver Alert

Go to and search "Silver Alert."

Silver Alert offers valuable tool when seniors are missing 12/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 10:24am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. After Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay officers headed south to help out

    Public Safety

    When Hurricane Irma was forecast to pummel the Tampa Bay region, Tampa police Cpl. Whitney McCormick was ready for the worst — to lose her home and all of her possessions.

    Tampa International Airport Police Department Sgt. Eric Diaz (left) stands next to Tampa Police Department Cpl. Whitney McCormick at the Collier County Command Post in the days after Hurricane Irma. More than 100 local law enforcement officers traveled from Tampa Bay to help out the county. (Courtesy of Whitney McCormick)
  2. Forecast: Sunny skies, mainly dry conditions continue across Tampa Bay


    For Tampa Bay residents, Wednesday is expected to bring lots of sunshine, lower humidity and little to no storm chances.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  3. Florida education news: Irma makeup days, HB 7069, charter schools and more


    MAKEUP DAYS: Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart waives two of the required 180 days of instruction to help districts complete the …

    Education Commissioner Pam Stewart
  4. Rays morning after: At least Archer looked good



  5. Financially strapped Brooksville raises tax rate and fire fees

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — After conducting an intensive examination of the city's financial position over the past couple of months, the Brooksville City Council has settled on its 2017-18 budget and a tax increase and fire fee increase to help pay for it.

    City Council member Joe Bernardini voted against the budget and the tax rate increase, saying it contained no employee raises and almost no capital expenses.