Sat, Jan 14 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Allison K. Sampité
The EmFinders program, which is operated by the city’s 64 senior volunteer patrol officers, supplements the Chula Vista Assist database in helping locate those with autism, Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive disabilities who wander off.
Law enforcement officials say the wristwatch-type device significantly enhances police response time to missing persons by using cellular technology instead of GPS.
The Chula Vista Police Department is the first in the county to make this technology available to the community.
Without this technology, Chula Vista Police Lt. Phil Collum said, locating disabled individuals in emergency situations would require several law enforcement officials and many hours.
In addition, environmental factors could put the wanderer at greater risk of dehydration and serious injury.
Chula Vista’s senior citizen population is approximately 25 percent.
“It will be a huge help to the department as well as to the families,” Collum said. “Sometimes it takes (the police department) hours to locate a missing person.”
Once a person is reported missing, police dispatch contacts EmFinders, which activates the device and determines the person’s location. Police officers are then sent to the wearer’s location to return them home.
An online survey by the National Autism Association showed that 92 percent of children with autism are prone to wandering, while the Alzheimer’s Association states that more than 60 percent of those living with dementia are likely to wander throughout their disability.
The device is free in 2012 to residents with cognitive disabilities or who have a history of wandering or becoming lost, with a one-year service maximum.
Additional years of service must be paid for by the enrollee or caregiver at a cost of $300 annually, otherwise, Collum said, it can be returned to the department.
Alzheimer’s Association communication education manager Diane Darby Beach who works with the San Diego and Imperial chapter, said that 75 percent of all cases of dementia are wanderers.
“I can only imagine that a device like this (EmFinders device), will have 100 percent results,” she said.
Collum said during his 20 years at the police department, he’s found those missing to be as close as next door to as far as tens of miles away. He said that last year the police department received more than 60 missing person-related calls.
Residents interested in applying for the EmFinders program should visit www.chulavistapd.org/goto/EmFinders, or contact the senior volunteer patrol office at (619) 476-2588.
© 2009 The Star-News