Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

TOP STORY >> Cabot police kick off new alert program

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

A program created almost 10 years ago in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to help find missing Alzheimer’s patients and children is now available to law- enforcement agencies all over the country, and the Cabot Police Department is one of the first in the area to use it.

It’s called “A Child is Missing” or “ACIM.” It doesn’t cost anything and it is capable of notifying 1,000 residents within one minute that a child cannot be found.

Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis first heard about the program three months ago during a police chief’s convention.
“He heard about it and we just had to get it,” said Sgt. Dwayne Roper, department spokesman.

Its use is limited to notifying neighbors by phone that a child, disabled person or Alzheimer’s patient is missing or that a sex offender has moved into an area.

So far, Cabot Police Department has used it twice, first to notify neighbors that a sex offender had moved in and more recently to alert residents in the southern part of Cabot that a 2-year-old boy was missing.

The child was recovered safely since he had really never left his home. He was found peacefully asleep under a pile of pillows in a bedroom, Roper said. His family and the first officer to respond to the call had not seen him.

But the test showed that the system worked, he said, because several residents called to say they had received the message and to ask how the search was going.

On the negative side, the service does not include calls to the same 1,000 people to tell them the child has been found, so Davis told city council members recently that his dispatchers were overworked when the calls from concerned residents started coming in.

But on the positive side, it offers an opportunity to get more people involved in the search early on when FBI statistics show a child is the most likely to be killed.

It works like this: When a child or other person allowed by the program is missing, the police agency contacts ACIM and gives all the pertinent information, such as description, what the person was wearing, area where last seen and home address. A technician tapes a telephone message with that information and makes the call to homes and businesses in the area where the subject was last seen. If an answering machine picks up, the call goes to the machine instead.

According to FBI statistics, 3,000 children and elderly go missing every day, Roper said, and if that isn’t food for thought, he added, “There’s a one-in-42 chance that your child is going missing.”