William CharlesTinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 11 Jan 2005 06:03:05 -0500


Alert aids search for teen

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


LONGMEADOW - A disabled Longmeadow teenager was found in little over an hour
Sunday, thanks to a new phone alert system that allows residents to join
police in the search for missing persons.

Longmeadow police are praising the "A Child Is Missing" program, which
issued more than 1,800 computer-generated phone alerts to neighbors of a
13-year-old Eastland Street boy, asking them to keep an eye open for the
teen. The boy was last seen walking his dog at around 2 p.m., but police
were not notified of his disappearance until about 3:40 p.m., said Sgt. John
A little over an hour after police authorized the alert, the boy was found
in nearby East Longmeadow - cold, a little disoriented, but otherwise
"It was like following bread crumbs," said Sgt. Gary R. Fontaine of the
search. "Within minutes of those calls, we had 100 calls from residents -
some because people wanted to know what was going on, but about one in 10
had information we could use to trace his route of travel. It was a really
nice outpouring from the community."
Stankiewicz estimated police fielded another 50 phone calls yesterday
morning, all from residents who wanted to know if the boy had been found and
if they could help with further searching.
"I just wish we could have sent out another phone alert telling people he
was found," Stankiewicz said.
Longmeadow Police Department is one of 354 Massachusetts law enforcement
agencies signed up for the phone alert system, said Sherry L. Friedlander,
executive director of the Florida-based nonprofit agency A Child is Missing
Founded by Friedlander eight years ago, the agency uses computer mapping
software to determine the area where the missing person is likely to be. It
can then make up to 1,000 phone calls per minute to homes and businesses in
the search area.
Though the program's name refers to children, the "A Child is Missing"
system can be used to locate disoriented or disabled adults such as
Alzheimer's patients who have wandered from their caretakers.
Northampton Police Sgt. Brian C. Rust said he is glad his department has
signed up with the program.
"Anytime there's a missing person, the more eyes and ears out in the
community, the better," he said. "With the Amber Alert, it's specific to a
criminal abduction, but with this, you can use it if someone wanders away,
like an Alzheimer's patient."
The program can only be activated by law enforcement personnel. Residents
who receive calls through the system can check their veracity by calling
local police, Stankiewicz said.
Nationwide, more than 5,800 law enforcement agencies in 18 states have
contracted with A Child is Missing Inc., which is funded by a combination of
state, federal and private money. Friedlander said her annual budget last
year was around $400,000, when just eight states were on board. To keep up
with the new member states, Friedlander hopes to raise $3.5 million in the
coming year.