Onondaga Co. Sheriff ‘Project Lifesaver’ helps bring missing loved ones back home

Local News

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Wandering is a common tendency for those with cognitive impairments or disabilities.

To keep family members and loved ones close to home, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s “Project Lifesaver” program is helping deputies locate those who go missing as quickly as possible.

Since 2007, the sheriff’s office has been participating in the worldwide program. Currently, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office has about 90 active clients, but want to make the public aware the program is here to help.

By using radio frequency transmitters, the advanced technology can help deputies efficiently find a missing person, especially those living with a cognitive impairment.

Some impairments include…

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia
  • Autism
  • Down Syndrome
  • Those who’ve sustained traumatic brain injuries
  • Post traumatic stress
  • Developmental delays

After enrollment, each client is given a battery-operated transmitter, similar to the one pictured below. This is the radio frequency device that helps deputies locate the missing person.

The sheriff’s office encourages clients to wear it at all times, either on their wrist or ankle in case of an emergency.

When anybody goes missing, even without a cognitive impairment, we usually have that one hour window, especially those who do have that impairment, Alzheimer’s, Autism or they’re nonverbal. They don’t really know they need to be found or have that fear. So, they wander. They typically wander in places that aren’t safe.

Deputy Kathleen Kruger, Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office

Deputy Kruger is one of the fifteen sheriff’s deputies who’s trained to use the Project Lifesaver technology.

At the time of an actual search, deputies use an antenna and the radio frequency to help locate a missing client.

Every client has their own frequency number and if searchers are within one to three miles of the missing person, the antenna starts to beep.

“Each time we have to look for a client, we have to change the three numbers on the antenna because each client has a different frequency,” Deputy Kruger explained. “The chirp is what I’m listening for.”

The closer the search team gets, the antenna’s beep gets louder.

Deputies also have the ability to put an additional antenna on their vehicles as a way to continue the electronic search while in route to a scene.

“As we’re in route to a call, we can put it on our car and pick up a quarter mile in any direction,” Deputy Kruger explained. “I could have passed them on the way while they were leaving their house or where they were last seen. It’s important that we use that mounted antenna, in case we can find them before we even get to where they’re trying to go.”

Project Lifesaver also has the ability to be used inside of the Sheriff’s Air-1 Helicopter and can track a signal up to 10 air miles.

A useful resource that helps law enforcement across the world be proactive, and bring missing loved ones back home.

If you’d like to enroll someone you know in the program or learn more about Project Lifesaver, click here.

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