- Associated Press - Saturday, April 29, 2017

MILTON, Del. (AP) - The tentative name is “Locate and Return” - a new program where the Milton Police Department can find at-risk individuals who go missing by using a GPS tracker.

The program is designed for people who wander off and could harm themselves by doing so, such as children with autism or adults with dementia. Milton Police Chief Robert Longo says they have a grant to provide four trackers - much like a GPS watch - to those who qualify.

“The bottom line (is) to make sure we do everything we can to ensure the safety of our residents,” Longo tells WBOC. “This is just another step that we’re taking forward to do it.”

The way the program would work is that each person with a tracker would have a designated safe zone, such as a property line or neighborhood block. If that person passed the safe zone perimeter, their designated caregiver would get a text message, allowing them to alert the police. The police would then be able to pull up the person’s whereabouts via the GPS, and go find them. Longo says there’s a reason the caregivers don’t have access to those GPS coordinates.

“We don’t want the family - heaven forbid something tragic happens - to be the one that locates their loved one,” he says. “That should be our responsibility.”

Longo says the program was inspired after two little girls went missing for a brief period of time after they were dropped off at the library.

“If these poor kids had autism or other special needs, we weren’t prepared at that point to protect them,” he says. “If this can bring some peace of mind to a family member and makes them more comfortable, then it definitely is an advantage for our first responders.”

The police department has a grant to cover four trackers for a year for people who qualify and live in city limits. But Longo says they’re willing to expand if a need is shown. Longo says this is the first program of its kind in Sussex County.

Anthony Del Franco is the Marketing Director of CHEER, and says the growing senior citizen population in Sussex County makes this program a slam dunk.

“CHEER is not open 24/7, and once (seniors) leave CHEER, they’re in the responsibility of the caregiver,” he says. “A device that can keep them safe and secure, I think is really huge and a really important undertaking.”

Del Franco says there are 370 relocations to Sussex County per month, and 60 percent of those moves are senior citizens.

Longo says the program epitomizes community policing.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that we’re offering a service to our citizens and to our youth,” he says.

The program’s target start date is July 1st. Anyone interested in the program can contact the Milton Police Department at (302) 684-8547.

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Information from: WBOC-TV, https://www.wboc.com/


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