Balto. County police adopt program to track missing

October 05, 2005|By NICK SHIELDS | NICK SHIELDS,SUN REPORTER

Baltimore County police will begin using a program that employs an automated phone system to help find missing people.

The department says it is among the first in the state to make use of the A Child is Missing program, which is capable of making up to 1,000 calls a minute to homes and businesses after receiving a report that a person is missing or has been abducted.

"If a child goes missing, it's critical to get the ball rolling right away," said John Worden, a counseling team supervisor for the Baltimore County Police Department, who helped bring the program to his agency.

The program also is used to find missing adults, such as those with Alzheimer's disease or other medical conditions. It is funded primarily by government grants, and its use is free to law enforcement.

The Florida-based program will be described today at a meeting of law enforcement officials in Timonium. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, said the agency is evaluating the program but that it "sounds like an interesting program that may fill in some areas that don't qualify for Amber Alerts."

In order to issue an Amber Alert, police must believe that a child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death and must have descriptive information about the child and suspect.

Worden had his own experience with a missing loved one. Four years ago, he was installing a pond in the backyard of his Reisterstown home when his mother-in-law, suffering from Alzheimer's, walked off.

After about an hourlong search, she was found a few blocks away. A month later, Worden learned about A Child Is Missing.

Sherry Friedlander founded A Child Is Missing in 1997. The Fort Lauderdale-based nonprofit organization has counted more than 100 recoveries in the past 3 1/2 years. Friedlander said that police departments in 38 states have adopted the program.

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com

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