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Glendale police plan tracking program for at-risk people

Glendale police offer wristbands for special needs people to help track them if they wander away

Glendale police are launching a program that would help officers quickly locate people with cognitive disorders who are reported missing by family members or loved ones.

About a year ago, a Glendale father whose son is autistic and has a tendency to wander asked police if they had any tracking devices for people with special needs or disabilities.

The request prompted police Sgt. Traci Fox to look into federal grant opportunities, which the man pointed out are available to law enforcement agencies to implement such programs.

After realizing that the grant process would be cumbersome, Fox discovered Project Lifesaver International. The program equips at-risk people with wristbands that emit individualized tracking signals.

When someone wearing a wristband disappears, officers can turn on a receiver, which emits a tone when it picks up the frequency of the wristband. As officers get closer, the tone gets louder.

Glendale police were able to allocate about $6,500 from the department's budget to purchase 10 wristbands and two receivers, Fox said.

Meanwhile, officers have been trained in the program and three are certified to teach it.

Fox chose Project Lifesaver because other agencies that have used GPS systems have run into problems with dead zones, which she figured she and her colleagues would face in the areas of La Tuna and Chevy Chase canyons.

It takes an average of 30 minutes for police to find a missing person with Project Lifesaver, Fox said. Searches using traditional methods can take several hours, she added.

"This would not only help us as a police department reduce response times and search times, this is peace of mind for the family members, too," Fox said.

Officers are now accepting applications from residents interested in participating. The program will cost $375 for the first year, which covers the cost of the wristband and batteries. The annual cost will be $100 thereafter.

"All the money that they pay into the program, we turn around and purchase another wristband," Fox said, adding that there are options for families who can't afford them.

The program, she said, also relies on caregivers reporting the missing person to police immediately instead of looking for them on their own.

"They need to call us right away," Fox said. "It's really going to be a partnership between families and the Glendale Police Department."

Twitter: @atchek

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