Nov 16, 2022 - News

Elizabeth Smart and tech company launch app to locate missing children and adults

Elizabeth Smart smiling during an interview.

Elizabeth Smart on Megyn Kelly Today on Nov. 14, 2017. Photo courtesy of Zach Pagano/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Elizabeth Smart, who survived her harrowing abduction in Salt Lake City two decades ago, has partnered with Portland-based tech company Q5id to launch an app that aims to locate missing children and adults.

Why it matters: More than 600,000 individuals go missing each year in the U.S., according to The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

Details: Q5id Guardian, which launched Monday, allows app members to initiate an alert to other users the moment they believe their loved one is missing.

  • Users can create profiles of their loved ones in the app that includes details of their physical appearance, temperament and medical history.
  • The profiles provide more details about a missing person than the standard Amber alert, Smart told Axios.
  • "The goal is that no matter how a loved one is missing, it could be that they have Dementia and simply wandered down the street, we want individuals to have the ability to alert their surrounding, immediate community into action," Q5id Guardian brand manager Alexandra Farland told Axios.

How it works: "If — heaven forbid — your child or your loved one disappears, you send out a notification, and the notification goes out immediately to [users] in your general area," Smart said.

  • You have to have the app to be notified. It's free to download, but users must pay $3.99 per month to have the ability to send a notification and create profiles.
  • Alerts are only sent to users within "a close radius of the geo-located alert," as well as friends and family who have downloaded it.

Of note: At this time, the app has not defined penalties for overusing the missing alerts.

Context: In 2002, Smart was abducted from her bedroom in SLC's Federal Heights neighborhood. She was 14 at the time and her kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell, held her captive for about nine months.

  • She was rescued after bystanders recognized her captor in public and alerted law enforcement authorities.
  • Since her kidnapping, Smart has become a national figure and advocate for missing persons.

What she's saying: Smart said the app allows users to be on the lookout and watch for signs in the case of a disappearance.

  • "If that can lead to my rescue … it can lead to their rescues as well," she said.
  • Timing is critical, she said, and the chances of locating a missing person after the first 48 hours dwindle significantly. Traditional Amber alerts may also be delayed as they have to meet a certain threshold to be sent out, she said.

Yes, and: As a safety precaution, only verified users are able to access the alerts. When setting up an account, users must provide an ID.

  • All verified users are cross-checked against the National Sex Offender Registry on a regular basis.
  • "That's what really sets this app apart for me in my mind from any other app that is out there," she said.

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