A 5-year-old autistic boy’s drowning death in Cass County last month became the impetus for a program announced Wednesday by Kansas City police.
Known as Care Trak, the tracking system allows searchers to quickly find missing people who suffer from conditions like autism, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or traumatic brain injuries.
It uses radio telemetry to locate someone wearing an ankle or wrist bracelet linked to the system. Biologists have used the technology for years to track the movement of wildlife.
A $10,000 donation from the Police Foundation of Kansas City allowed the Police Department to purchase a tracking unit for each of the department’s six patrol stations. Officers will undergo training Thursday and Friday being done by a St. Louis-area officer who has a son with autism, said Mike Chylewski, vice president of Illinois-based Care Trak.
Kansas City Police Sgt. Brad Deichler, who helped lead Kansas City’s effort to get the system, has a son with autism.
“I’m part of a national network that sends out alerts when a child with autism wanders off,” Deichler said. “About 10 or 15 percent of the time, the child dies. It’s usually a drowning, or they fall off of an overpass or get hit by a car.”
The Care Trak system gives families “great peace of mind,” Deichler said.
Last month, more than 100 searchers fanned out on the ground and in the air looking for Tony Eugene Cory-Ferguson, the Cass County boy who wandered from his grandparents’ house. Six hours after he vanished, his body was found in a pond less than 100 feet from the house.
In searches using the radio tracking system, people are usually found in 15 to 20 minutes, said Chief Greg Pratt of the North Carolina Project Lifesaver Specialized Team.
Since its start in one county in 1996, the system has been adopted throughout North Carolina and has helped find more than 5,000 missing people, according to Pratt.
“We’ve never had one case of anyone we couldn’t find,” he said. “And we’ve never had anybody die after walking off.”
A bracelet costs about $300 plus about $3 each month.
Kansas City Police Capt. Darren Ivey is working to find civic groups interested in helping people who cannot afford the bracelets. Medicaid may provide payment help, police said.
Although Kansas City is the first area law enforcement agency to deploy Care Trak, some smaller departments have adopted similar technology through another vendor.
The Platte County Sheriff’s Office got a system earlier this year and is distributing material about the system and meeting with area groups and medical providers.