Finding missing children faster

      When someone is missing, it can be time consuming to obtain a picture and get it out to the news media and the public. Sometimes several hours go by before an alert is issued. Titan Lynx Corp. designed the StreetLynx Network to change that...


   "We looked at the StreetLynx service and felt it was a very useful tool [in] the recovery of missing children," says Mike Watkins, FOP Lodge 21 president. "We also envision using it to help locate older adults suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's."

   "Whether it's a child who has wandered off or a teen who has run away, the worst thing in a parent's life is not knowing where their child is. If it works the way it's envisioned, instead of 10 or 15 pairs of eyes in a small community looking for someone, you potentially have hundreds of pairs of eyes out there looking."

   Trying to locate a missing child can be frustrating, he says. When Watkins, a retired juvenile officer, would get a report of a missing child, the description would often be too generic. "A toddler, 3 or 4 years old, blond hair, blue eyes, wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt, 3 feet 8 inches," he says. "A lot of kids in Lima fit that description."

   Lima Police Chief J. Gregory Garlock says the ability to send a photo and description of a missing person by cell phone is a classic example of merging law enforcement needs with technology.

   "Our ability to get a picture out into the public and to every officer on the street will be phenomenal," Garlock says.

   Watkins encourages "every village, city and county employee to sign up; as well as people who are out and about all the time like postal workers and people who work in convenience stores and gas stations."

   "They see hundreds of people every day," says Watkins. "If they get this alert, that greatly increases the chances of finding someone."

   If someone gets an alert at work, he or she might be able to spot a missing child on the way home. Or someone shopping downtown might notice a child in a car and receive an alert minutes later. This could help narrow down where the child was last seen and what kind of vehicle the child is in.

Nationwide alerts

   The StreetLynx project is near and dear to Rubinic's heart.

   Titan Lynx has invested nearly $1.2 million into the development of the StreetLynx Network and the PhotoAlert Drive project. In the future, Rubinic expects the StreetLynx Network and PhotoAlert Drive will be able to broadcast video as well.

   The success of StreetLynx will be in its speed in delivering an image of a person missing. With a photo stored on a PhotoAlert Drive, an alert can be sent out in minutes. Because recipients will be sent a photo, they can visualize a child quicker than they might with only a text description.

   "The chances of finding a missing person go up dramatically if you have a face to put with the name or description," Rubinic says, noting that a portable image on a cell phone or PDA is more convenient than an image on a missing persons poster.

   Together, he says, "Titan Lynx, law enforcement and our communities can make this happen."

   Editor's note: More information on AMBER Alerts can be found at www.wirelessamberalerts.org.

   Rebecca Kanable has been writing about law enforcement issues for approximately 10 years. She can be reached at kanable@charter.net.

A plan for success

   In order for StreetLynx to be successful:

  • Law enforcement agencies must subscribe to StreetLynx. Titan Lynx Corp. would like to see at least 1,000 agencies sign up per month. At that rate, a nationwide network could be built in about three years.
  • Community members must sign up to receive alerts in Phase 2.
  • Families need to electronically store information regarding their children, and, if applicable, their parents in a format that can be easily accessed, such as the PhotoAlert Drive.
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