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Port St. Lucie police use radio frequencies to find missing people with disabilities

Posted at 9:42 AM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 09:42:12-04

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Over the last five years, the Port St. Lucie Police Department has reported more than 600 missing adults and 900 missing children.

Some of those reports have been for people with disabilities, such as autism, dementia, or Alzheimer's, who can't find their way home.

Project Lifesaver is a piece of equipment founded by Gene Saunders, a former police officer, to help find missing people with disabilities.

His program is now used by over 1700 agencies in all 50 states including the Port St. Lucie Police Department and the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office.

"Alzheimer's patients and autistic children are not going to help you find them," said Saunders. "They're not going to respond to you calling them. They're going to be in places where you might not normally look for what might be described as a reasonable person."

Residents who wish to sign up for the free program are given a bracelet.

Inside the armband is a transmitter with a unique code.

If that person goes missing, law enforcement can then respond to where the person was last seen and plug that transmitter's code into their receiver.

On the ground, signals can begin to show as far out as two miles.

When in the helicopter or on a drone, signals can show between five to eight miles out.

When police officers get closer to the missing person, the equipment begins to make louder signals.

Currently, PSLPD has 67 residents signed up ranging in age from 2 to 101 years old.

"Anybody that gets out of the home and wanders away a little bit, and now they can't find their way home, this is who we want this bracelet on," said Detective Kristin Meyer, PSLPD. "This is a tool, a wonderful tool. It's a way for us, a resource for us, to get out there and get that loved one home as soon as possible."

Saunders said on average, it takes officers only 30 minutes to find the missing person once they respond to where the person went missing.