Missing in action

I recently posted about the increasing number of ways that social media is being used for social good – including saving the lives of human rights workers.

Now social media – and Twitter in particular – is becoming the mainstream way of locating missing people.

I was slightly surprised when I reviewed five UK police Facebook pages recently and found that a third of the most popular posts related to missing persons.

@BrightPlanet were kind enough to share the data they harvested from the recent Global Police Tweetathon and I found that 330 of the 9,836 tweets from UK forces sent on 22 March this year were also about missing persons.

It’s no surprise that police use social media for this purpose though.

I’ve come across two successful outcomes in the last month.


missing person

West Midlands Police find “escaped” patient

A 75 year old man with dementia wandered away from a hospital in Birmingham last Saturday.

@WMPolice were contacted by the hospital at 2 p.m. and immediately posted requests for information on Twitter and Facebook at the same time as they started a major police search.

Less than an hour later, a member of the public who saw the social media messages noticed a man matching the description leaning against a wall two miles from the hospital and phoned the police who picked up the missing patient and returned him safe and sound.

Full details here.

Twitter helps Belfast woman find missing mum

A Belfast woman with Alzheimer’s Disease went out to walk her dogs at 9 o’clock in the morning on 3rd April this year.

By teatime, she had still not returned home and her family were sick with worry.

Her daughter, who was travelling back from Donegal, felt helpless because she could not get a good phone signal, so decided to post an appeal on Twitter and Facebook.

She urged her followers to retweet and share the picture message.

The message was re-tweeted hundreds of time and was crucially seen by a local resident:

“I was sitting in the living room, watching TV, and I noticed a woman walking past the window with two dogs,” she said.

“She seemed a wee bit dazed and kind of caught my attention but I didn’t think anything of it.

Literally, 30 seconds later I was on Twitter and I saw a re-tweet with a photo of the woman I’d just seen.

I jumped in the car, drove round and caught up with her.”

She gently coaxed the woman into coming into the house for a cup of tea while her husband rang the worried daughter and the police.

Coincidentally both the daughter and the woman who found her mother were both used to being given a hard time by their husbands for being Twitter addicts.

I reckon they can tweet as often as they like from now on.

Full details on the BBC Northern Ireland website here.