Service aims to help police guide wayward, vulnerable people home
A woman dropped off pictures of her son at the Corvallis Police Department and gave officers her contact information.
It was a precaution, she said, because her autistic boy has a tendency to wander off. But even if officers found him, he would be unable to tell them his name or where he lives.
That gave Lt. Jon Keefer an idea.
“I thought, there’s got to be an automated way to do this,” Keefer said this week.
That was several years ago. He investigated the possibilities and located the Take Me Home program by SmartCOP Inc., a Pensacola, Fla., law enforcement technology and software company that developed the free program with the help of the Pensacola Police Department.
Because of Keefer’s initiative, Corvallis police now have a better way to reunite lost people who cannot communicate with their caregivers. The Take Me Home Program is a database that stores photos and descriptions of people who are at risk, and their caregivers’ contact information.
Accessible from computers in patrol vehicles, the database can be used when someone goes missing. After at-risk persons have been enrolled in the program, their names will show up on the database whenever police run a query based on the person’s description.
In the past five years, the department has investigated at least 20 cases where such a program would have been useful.
The most common cases involve Alzheimer’s patients who walk away from the assisted-living facilities where they live, Keefer said. Caregivers call the police and provide the missing person’s height, weight and hair color. But such a general description could match any number of people on the streets of Corvallis.
“Those are the types of situations where it would be nice to have photographs (already on hand),” Keefer said.
Keefer and police auxiliary volunteers want to get the word out about the new program so they can enroll as many people as possible. Caregivers can enroll people by bringing them into the lobby of the Law Enforcement Building during regular business hours. They will be photographed, and their information gathered.
In the coming months, Keefer and police auxiliary volunteers plan to demonstrate the program and enroll participants during their visits to public events, group homes, senior centers and support groups.