A potential lifeline for vulnerable missing people has been put in place across County Durham.
People who go missing in the Durham Constabulary force area can now receive a text signposting services which could help save their lives.
The TextSafe service has been devised by the national Missing People charity, which has 20 years’ frontline experience in providing support, advice and practical help to anyone who has run away, gone missing or been forced to leave home.
When an adult or child goes missing in Durham, the officer dealing with the case can ask Missing People to send a text directly to the mobile phone of that person or child.
The text tells them about the services provided by Missing People, but they can choose if they wish to contact the charity or not.
It is hoped that vulnerable people could be more likely to contact the ‘neutral’ charity than their family or the police.
But as a result of getting in contact with Missing People, the person may decide to initiate contact with officers, loved ones or social services.
Det Supt Paul Goundry, head of safeguarding for Durham Constabulary, said: “The vast majority of people reported missing in our area are usually traced fit and well within a relatively short space of time.
“But for those who may be at real risk of harm, this service is a very valuable addition to our toolkit.
“We will be encouraging our staff to ask Missing People to send a TextSafe message in appropriate cases.
“It is a way of reaching out to offer help, and it could prevent a tragedy.”
It costs the police nothing to register for TextSafe or to use it. It is also free for the missing person to call and text even if they have no credit on their phone.
The standard message sent to under-18s reads: Have you run away? Please get in touch for free 24/7 confidential support. Call 116000 or text 116000. www.missingpeople.org.uk
For adults the message reads: Away from home? Please get in touch for free 24/7 confidential support or a message home. Call 116000 or text 116000. www.missingpeople.org.uk
Durham’s Assistant Chief Officer, Gary Ridley today signed a memorandum of understanding with Missing People at Durham Police headquarters in Aykley Heads, as part of a drive to raise awareness of the charity’s services among the force’s operational officers.