UPDATE (Wednesday, Mar. 31, 2021): On the afternoon of Wednesday, Mar. 31, 2021, three-year-old Jude Leyton was located safely by the search and rescue team being overseen by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are continuing their search for missing three-year-old Jude Leyton in the Canoe Lake Road area of South Frontenac Township.
The young boy went missing at approximately 11 a.m. on Sunday, Mar. 28, 2021. The toddler was wearing the coat in the photo above with no hat and blue boots. Police said he has a large stature for his age, and long brown hair tied in a ponytail. Anyone who sees Jude is asked to call 911 or 1-888-310-1122 immediately.
Bill Dickson, Acting Manager of Media Relations for the OPP, said they are making use of every resource available to them in their search for the toddler in the wooded area, which is bounded by bodies of water in all directions. The search involves resources on land, in the air, and on local waterways, Dickson said, and trained volunteers with the Ontario Search and Rescue Volunteer Association (OSRVA) are assisting.
Dickson also said that reports that had been circulated on social media regarding footprints being located were “unfounded.” The footprints that were discovered were from those involved in the search efforts, he said, and nothing to do with the missing child.
“This is one of the problems with people reporting what they’re hearing on the scanners,” Dickson said, noting that people publicizing what is being said over scanners and radios is both “unhelpful” and “frustrating.”
“It could be something, but it could be nothing. We don’t want to give people false hope, and we also don’t want people thinking the worst if we’ve not discovered anything,” Dickson said.
“It’s very frustrating and it spreads false information.”
Dickson said the online chatter regarding the OPP refusing assistance from CFB Kingston is also unhelpful.
“We never asked the military for help. The military are not trained to do this specialized kind of work like the people we have on the ground are,” he said.
For their part, CFB Kingston agreed with Dickson’s assessment of the usual protocol for involving the military in such searches.
“CFB Kingston has not been requested to assist in the search the missing boy. Normal protocol in support to provincial operations is the military has to be requested. This normally happens when the civil authorities assess that they will require outside assistance,” said Jeremy Matthews of Public Affairs for CFB Kingston.
“CFB Kingston prides itself on being ready to support Canadians domestically when called upon to do so.”
Noting that the OPP has made it clear right from the beginning of the search for the young boy that public assistance is not being requested, and that members of the public should not come to the area looking for the child, Dickson explained that there are multiple reasons the search is best left to the professionals. When using a K9 unit, as the OPP has been doing through this search, the dogs are tracking scents. If members of the public begin searching in the area, this can throw the dogs off the scent trails, Dickson said, adding that this exact issue has already occurred during the search for Jude when well-meaning members of the public ended up on the other end of a scent trail and were discovered by the OPP.
Dickson also noted that footprints from members of the public searching can also interrupt the process of a search, as outlined in the incident above, as can disturbed brush. Furthermore, the helicopters and drones the OPP are employing in the search are using infrared technology, which seeks out heat. This is done as part of a larger grid pattern search, and, if heat is detected and it turns out to be members of the public, again, the search is interrupted and time is wasted.
“And time is of the essence right now,” Dickson said.
Lastly, there is always the chance that members of the public trying to assist could end up lost themselves, or worse, sustain injuries that would require attention from first responders.
“We’ve had that happen before, too,” Dickson said. “And that’s the last thing anyone wants.”
While Sgt. Steve Koopman of the Kingston Police confirmed that an offer of assistance had been made from the local police to the OPP, Dickson went on to further explain why outside assistance is not being used at this time.
“As a parent myself, I completely understand. Trust me, at some points, it’s all I can do to keep myself from going out there, but I know how important it is that we leave this to the trained professionals,” he expressed.
“There has been a lot of talk about the Ontario Search and Rescue Volunteer Association. What people don’t know is, yes, obviously these are people who are trained in these search efforts, but they don’t just come in and start going through the scene on their own.”
Dickson explained that members of the OSRVA are paired up with OPP officers. Those officers are in communication with the search master – who is incredibly well-trained in such matters – and are also tracked by GPS so that the OPP know where they are at all times.
“We do these searches in a very specific way, and if people start coming into the area searching for the child, it can entirely disrupt the search efforts,” he said.
Dickson noted that the comments he’s seen online – including those he’s responded to personally – regarding the OPP refusing the assistance due to “ego” were particularly upsetting.
“This is not about ego,” he said. “This is about finding a small child who is lost as soon as possible.”
Dickson also explained why an Amber Alert had not been issued in this case, noting that Amber Alerts are only issued in cases of confirmed abductions, in situations where there is a known suspect, and other information such as vehicle details and a suspect description is available. “In this case, this is not an abduction,” said Dickson, stating that police are bound in following the legislation that is in place.
Underlining that the boy’s parents have been cooperative with police since the start of the search, which has now continued well past 48 hours, Dickson said police do not suspect any foul play in this matter.
“This was just a child that was playing in the yard, type of thing, and wandered off,” he said.
“Again, we understand that people want to help, and we appreciate that, but having members of the public coming out to search will not help at this time, it will only hinder our investigation,” he continued. “We’re well into the third day of this search, and we don’t know what will happen, but we all just want and are hoping for a happy ending.”
With files from Cris Vilela.