The Fort Pierce Police Department is going high-tech with efforts to find missing people.
This week Police Chief Sean Baldwin formalized an agreement with \"A Child Is Missing,\" a nationwide nonprofit organization that has developed an extensive missing- person alert program that can make 1,000 phone calls a minute to assist in the search.
Despite the organization's name, the Fort Lauderdale-based system can be used to find missing elderly, particularly people suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and people with mental or physical disabilities.
\"For years we've had a reverse-911 system that we used to alert homes and businesses in a neighborhood of a missing person,\" Baldwin said. \"The problem was that we could only place four or five calls a minute ... With the A Child Is Missing system, within 20 to 30 minutes, we could notify every phone in Fort Pierce. And in these cases, time is of the essence.\"
Baldwin said national statistics show that 25 percent of abducted children who aren't found within the first hour, and 40 percent of those not found in the first two hours, are never found alive.
Baldwin said A Child Is Missing, begun in January 1997, has been credited with safe recoveries of 193 missing people as of Jan. 9. The organization's Web site claims 210 recoveries.
Using satellite images and a computer mapping program, Baldwin said, A Child Is Missing operators can determine whether a body of water is near the last known location of a missing person and call homes around the water first. The system also can determine whether any registered sexual predators live near the missing person's home or last known location.