Tracking device finds people who wander

Posted: June 22, 2013

The Winchester Star

Winchester Deputy Steve Alger holds the Project Lifesaver receiver to detect a signal from a transmitter. Project Lifesaver uses the equipment to locate adults and children who are missing. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
The frequency of a transmitter is dialed into the receiver of the Project Lifesaver equipment. The equipment is designed to provide a timely response to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children wearing the transmitter who wander due to Alzheimer’s disease, autism and other conditions. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Not all those who wander will be lost, thanks to a device the Winchester Sheriff’s Office is using.

Project Lifesaver is a program that includes placing personalized tracking bracelets on people afflicted with dementia, autism or other developmental disorders who may wander from their homes.

Twelve clients — one elderly and the rest children or young adults — now participate in the program.

Sheriff Lenny Millholland said the program has had a 100 percent success rate in finding people who wear the bracelets.

“It’s cutting-edge technology; we just want everybody to know [about it] so we can help them,” he said.

The program has been available through the Sheriff’s Office for nearly 10 years, but Millholland said he fears that some people who may benefit from it are unaware that it exists.

Deputy Steve Alger said many local residents have loved ones who like to wander. “If they have this, it’s a pretty good way for us to find them if they get lost.”

Alger demonstrated the device on Friday outside the Joint Judicial Center on Kent Street.

Millholland held a white bracelet — which looked like a watch — and then hid in the parking lot.

Meanwhile, Alger programmed the bracelet’s unique frequency into a receiver and began pointing it at areas surrounding the lot.

A faint beep could be heard when he pointed it to his right, and he began walking that way.

“It basically transmits a radio wave that this receiver can pick up,” he said of the bracelet.

Alger added that the technology should not be confused with Global Positioning Systems. “It is not GPS. This is actually run off radio frequency.”

Within minutes, he was able to find Millholland. The beeping on the receiver grew louder and louder as he neared the bracelet.

The device costs $350, but Millholland said he can help financially challenged clients, and noted that some groups are willing to sponsor those who need the bracelet.

During the registration with the Sheriff’s Office, Alger said, officials take a picture of the client and obtain details about his or her workplace, school or favorite places.

The Sheriff’s Office will also call surrounding jurisdictions for help when clients are reported missing.

Alger said the search is widespread, so police can act quickly

The Sheriff’s Office pays for and replaces the batteries in the devices.

For more information about the program or to sign up for a device, call the Sheriff’s Office at 540-667-5770, ext. 459.

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com