Lifewatch: Project Lifesaver

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - The City of Philadelphia is launching Project Lifesaver to help police find people with autism, Alzheimer's, or developmental disabilities who wander away.

SOT: Michelle Hamilton, Mother of Autistic Child)

"It's always a fear that never goes away that he's gonna just leave and then you will not be able to find him!" said Michelle Hamilton who is the mother of an autistic child.

Every time Michelle's 8-year-old son, Ben, disappeared in the middle of the night, they went after him.

"Benjamin loves trains," said Michelle.  'He'll just go wander to a railroad track. That's where he goes when he leaves. He heads to the El."

Michelle fears the odds will catch up with them, and that something could happen.

"Over 1,600 people that have had to use this service they found 1,600," said Philadelphia city council member Jack Kelly.  "There was no loss of life. And that was one of the things that really, really stood out."

In Project Lifesaver, at-risk kids and adults wear a transmitter bracelet that officers are trained to track with a special receiver.

"How rewarding is that to go to a parent and say 'we found your child or we found your parent?' Instead of constantly bringing bad news, we can bring good news," said Lt. Mary Jo Brady with the Philadelphia Police Department.

Ben is already signed up for Project Lifesaver so his mom will know where he is, even when she doesn't know where he is.

Project Lifesaver teams are also trained in the methods necessary to communicate with a person who has Alzheimer's disease or related disorder.

Team members know how to approach the person, gain their trust, and put them at ease for the trip home.

The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office has a partnership with Project Lifesaver.  To receive a free tracking bracelet, click here.