December 6, 2010 | 8:12am
Florida has the nickname "Heaven's Waiting Room" for a reason. Many snowbirds end up making the final trek to our sandy shores to live the rest of their lives in luxury. During that time, many fall sick with various illnesses -- including dementia.
Back in 2008, Gov. Crist (and others) wanted to find a way to track elderly, forgetful citizens who hop in their big, black Cadillacs only to never return home.
Thus the Silver Alert.
The system works much like the Amber Alert program, which tracks missing children. But does it actually work? Check after the jump for the silver alert's criteria and success statistics courtesy of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
The program was signed into effect by Crist on October 8, 2008. According to Keith Kameg, public information officer for the FDLE, there have been 245 Silver Alerts since that time. Of those 245 alerts, 38 people were found thanks directly to the program.
"That doesn't mean those people weren't found," Kameg cautioned. "That's only where the Silver Alert System played a part."
But not just any elderly person to go missing warrants an alert. The criteria are as follows:
1. The missing person must be at least 60 years old and have clear indication of irreversible deterioration of intellectual faculties, like dementia.
2. Law enforcement must prove the disappearance proves a threat to the person's safety.
3. A vehicle must be involved.
Kameg also quoted the Alzheimer's Association statistic that says 90 percent of elderly citizens who go missing are found within 1/4 mile of their residence.
However, recent reports show that it isn't always the case. Most recently, Port St. Lucie man George Earle Starr went missing from his home and was found safely Georgia.