News / Winnipeg

Number of Winnipeg missing persons cases abnormally high: advocates

Winnipeg police's missing persons unit said Tuesday they have 89 short-term files open — 70 for missing youth and 19 for missing adults.

Darryl Contois, one of hundreds of Bear Clan Patrol volunteers who comb the city, searching for traces of missing people.

Janine Kropla/National Film Board

Darryl Contois, one of hundreds of Bear Clan Patrol volunteers who comb the city, searching for traces of missing people.

The number of missing people in Winnipeg right now is alarming, according to those tasked with bringing the loved ones home.

Searchers from the Bear Clan Patrol, a rotating group of about 350 volunteers who comb the city on foot, and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection called the current number of outstanding case files "high."

On Tuesday, Winnipeg's missing persons unit told Metro they have 89 short term files open, 70 of them for missing youth and 19 for missing adults. The police refused an interview request to discuss the numbers.

Kevin Dilk, a 50-year-old schoolteacher from St. Boniface, is one of the most recent people they began searching for. Police issued a public call for help looking for him last Thursday, after he was last seen at his home around 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Dilk is described as 5'9 and Caucasian, with a slim build, grey hair and glasses. 

The outpouring of people wanting to help search for him—including about 300 volunteers who set out by foot Sunday—has been “overwhelming,” said his niece, Ginger Dilk.

“We don’t know right now if he’s able to hear or see any of these messages, but if he is, I just would ask… that he contact us and reach out to us. We love him,” she said.

The Bear Clan Patrol has been looking for Dilk in St. Boniface, while also actively searching for five other people around the city, said executive director James Favel. 

The group saw its volunteer base balloon in November to about 480 searchers, Favel said, noting “the need is definitely there.”

“We’re looking underneath the bridges and we’re looking underneath garbage bins and things like that to see if anybody’s been hurt," he said. “We’re always searching. Sometimes we have a specific focus and other times we’re working as just part of the program.”

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has a website dedicated specifically to tracking missing youth: missingkids.ca. People can sign up for MissingKidsALERT, a service that complements police news releases and Amber Alerts, said Jessica Huzyk, a case worker with the child safety and family advocacy division.

Huzyk said the number of missing kids is perpetually larger than missing adults’ because childrens’ guardians will immediately report them missing, whereas adults are usually given a few days leeway.

During the summer, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection notices more runaway kids reported missing. Parental abduction is more common around the holidays, Huzyk said.

According to the RCMP’s latest figures from 2015, 58 per cent of missing youth were found within 24 hours, while 91 per cent were found within a week.

Manitoba had the second-largest number of missing children (8,684) reported in 2015 behind Ontario (12,900), said the RCMP.

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