Lawmen certified in Care Trak

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 3, 2008

JACKSON – Project Lifesaver’s Care Trak Program is well on its way to being implemented in Northampton County.

On Wednesday, supervisor deputies with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office participated in the North Carolina Project Lifesaver (NCPL) Care Trak certification class.

The class, conducted by Chief Greg Pratt with NCPL, covered the basics of using the Care Trak program before the law enforcement officers received hands on experience by utilizing the Care Trak technology in exercises.

NCPL is a non-profit agency consisting of paid and volunteer staff members who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to members belonging to the organization.

Using radio-wave technology, the NCPL Care Trak program allows law enforcement officials to find missing citizens (who are elderly or children with special needs) who are wearing a Care Trak bracelet. Those bracelets contain a tiny transmitter, emitting a signal from which the lawmen can track.

According to Pratt, each person affixed with the bracelet has a radio frequency associated with that bracelet. The officer using the Care Trak technology punches in the frequency number into a CTR 1000 mobile locator and using an antenna attached to the locator can narrow in on the individual wearing the bracelet.

Pratt said the technology has a one mile radius on the ground and a five mile radius from a helicopter or plane. A NCPL specialized task force with K-9 units are also available to assist in the search.

He continued by saying since the implementation of Care Trak in 1997, there has been no injuries or death. He also estimated on average a missing Care Trak citizen can be found in eight to 12 minutes using the technology.

“It’s a helpful program,” he said. “We’re really appreciative to Northampton County for getting involved and we’re here to help support their needs.”

Pratt said the device is not an invasion of privacy as the tools are not utilized until the citizen is reported as missing.

He also stressed the involvement of the care giver and/or family in the program as to notifying law enforcement when a Care Trac resident has gone missing.

“They (law enforcement) do not know the person is missing until it’s reported,” Pratt said.

Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent participated in the certification class along side seven of his deputy supervisors.

“It’s a magnificent tool to use (while searching) for the elderly,” he said.

Vincent said the technology will help his office a great deal and cut down on the time in finding those who are a part of the program and have gone missing.

Vincent said last year his office dealt with four cases where citizens had wandered away from their home. He noted one case where a Woodland woman was missing for more than 24 hours before she was found by law enforcement.

Office on Aging Director Debby Warren said the implementation of Care Trak came about when the Sheriff’s Office were researching tracking devices and found NCPL.

Warren along with County Manager Wayne Jenkins, Health Department Director Sue Gay, Vincent, Sheriff’s Major Bill Wheeler, Commissioners Robert Carter and James Hester met with Pratt about NCPL and Care Trak.

Warren said she also spoke with Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn about the program, which is being utilized in Hertford County. The program will also soon be implemented in Bertie County.

Upon the approval of the project by the commissioners, a policy was formulated and approved. The county now has five bracelets and one mobile locator.

Warren said the placement of a bracelet on a citizen would have to be doctor ordered.

Warren said there would be $12 monthly fee for replacing the battery on the bracelet device, which needs replacement month by month, though she said the county is looking into funding to help with that cost.

“There are some things we need to work out,” she said. “We do want people to use it.”

Warren also noted an added benefit for the Sheriff’s Office. As a member of NCPL they can utilize that agency’s resources for any event, not just for Care Trak.

Warren said those interested in Care Trak can call the Office on Aging at (252) 534-1668 or the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office at (252) 534-2611.