9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Does Your Agency Know About "A Child Is Missing Inc."?

A Child Is Missing, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida based non-profit organization founded in 1997, was created because no community based program existed nationwide for locating missing children, the elderly (Alzheimer's), or the disabled (often unconscious).  Taking action during the first hours of a person's disappearance is very critical in helping to save their life.

ACIM, a public/private partnership, is devoted to assisting law enforcement in search/early recovery efforts during the initial hours of a child/elderly person's disappearance via a rapid-response neighborhood notification system utilizing a high-tech telephony program.  ACIM uses a three-prong program; a telephone database, a geo-mapping system and a satellite imagery system.  ACIM has training sessions for officers to understand the ACIM program.  Their trainers go to every state involved in the ACIM program.  They are endorsed by law enforcement.

ACIM will conduct informational community meetings in various areas to make teachers, parents and students aware of ACIM and other programs that affect their family's lives.  These programs involve local law enforcement and the schools.

When a person has been reported missing to a law enforcement agency, the officer calls ACIM and provides pertinent information about the individual such as description, clothes worn and time and location last seen.  Results are best when alerts go out within the first 2 to 3 hours after a disappearance, but can be successful if elapsed time is longer. The ACIM technician pulls up the location provided with the computerized mapping systems.  An imagery/satellite program is also used to increase the map-tracking accuracy and to help visualize "hot spots" that may harbor the missing child or attract a "wandering" individual.  A target area is chosen based on where the person was last seen, using the address and the zip code.  Phone numbers are selected any where from 100 to 5,000 depending on the area and the intensity of the search. Then a personalized alert message is recorded and phoned out to the area where the person was last seen.

The alert message asks residents to check their property for the missing person and to call their local law enforcement agency should they have any information.  If a lead is obtained, the search can be expanded to that area.  The technician will check with the officer on the scene until the child is found or the search has been called off in that area.  They are there to serve and assist law enforcement agencies in the search and recovery of missing children, elderly (often with Alzheimer's), or mentally or physically challenged person.

With its high-tech telephony, A Child Is Missing can place up to 1,000 calls in 60 seconds.  There is a 98 percent listen rate by residents/businesses answering phones.  Call recipients are asked to call police with any information they have about the missing person.  Answering machines will record ACIM calls so that residents will receive the alert when they return.  The program is available 24/7, 365.

Since its inception, A Child Is Missing has responded to over 8,000 calls for assistance from law enforcement, generating nearly 7 million phone calls to residents alerting them to an endangered missing person.  The cases where ACIM has mobilized communities to help look for a missing child, elderly (often with Alzheimer's) or mentally/physically disabled person are too numerous to list.

A Child Is Missing is devoted to helping save lives. ACIM program is given to all law enforcement agencies at no cost.  ACIM gives them access to immediate assistance in looking for a missing child or other vulnerable missing person.  A signed letter from the Sheriff/Chief stating their wish to participate in the program is requested.  If an agency has a missing case and has not yet sent in a letter of participation, they can still activate the program.

This is the only program of its kind in the United States and it is working.  It is a proven public/private partnership.  They save money for agencies and become a partner in the search effort.  Eighty-five percent of law enforcement agencies have 15 or less sworn officers and the cost of equipment used by ACIM would be prohibitive for smaller agencies.  Additionally, many agencies do not maximize use of reverse-911 equipment after it has been purchased.  It is much more cost-effective to be a part of a network that used the ACIM program.

In most cases, ACIM obtains initial funding to bring the program to a state.  Once the program has been established, ACIM seeks voluntary law enforcement donations as well as state and federal funding.  Even if a department can't afford a donation, they have access to the program.

Fundraising events, corporate sponsors, private donations and individual gifts also help fund program operations.  If you are interested in starting a fundraiser group in your area to benefit ACIM, please contact the main office in Fort Lauderdale for more information.  The address is 500 SE 17th Street #101, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316.  You can also show your support by visiting their catalog at www.achildismissing.org.

My agency has been using A Child Is Missing for a number of years now.  They have always been quick and efficient at getting all information out to the public as soon as possible and offering to help us in any way.  I strongly encourage you to at least research their program and make a suggestion to your chain of command to give them a try.

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