By Alfa · Nov 6, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    Local News - A missing senior prompted a large-scale ground search around the former Victoria Park School Tuesday night.

    Chatham-Kent police combed the area using a new thermal imaging camera allowing officers to peer into the dark to find the person.

    The police dog unit, Critical Incident Response Team members, and the Chatham-Kent Search and Rescue Volunteer Association took part in the hunt for the missing senior.

    Tuesday night, the search was only an exercise, but the Chatham-Kent Police Service is now better prepared for a real missing person case.

    By attaching the camera to a helicopter, the service is now able to conduct a search much quicker than a traditional foot search, said Insp. Clare Wiersma.

    "This equipment and training will significantly enhance our ability to locate missing persons during those critical first few hours," he said.

    When needed, the police service will rent a helicopter to conduct an air search, said Wiersma, who manages the search and rescue project for the Chatham-Kent Police Service.

    The CKPS purchased the $30,000 camera and four global positioning system

    (GPS) units through the New Search and Rescue Initiatives Fund.

    Wiersma said the camera will be used by CIRT members to investigate not only missing persons cases, but also to look for fugitives, suspects, boaters and suspected marijuana grow houses.

    A recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling allows police services to use imaging cameras to look for heat sources from within possible grow houses.

    "It will show differences in the rate an individual gives off heat,"

    Wiersma said.

    The device can also locate missing articles and assist in finding a cause in traffic accident investigations.

    The camera has a high resolution long-range lens that can be used from a helicopter or hand held by an officer on the ground.

    Wiersma said the new device offers greater flexibility than old imaging cameras that were permanently fixed to a helicopter, limiting their use.

    He said the camera can find used gun shell casings or detect tire skid marks undetectable to the human eye.

    Officers with the intelligence and identification units of the CKPS were also trained on the camera.

    Wiersma said using a heat detecting camera to find people is especially important in the winter and around areas of open water.

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