Ty Christian West, 6, was among three children fitted for a Project Lifesaver tracking bracelet by Kawaski Barnes, a detective with the Albany Police Department, on Tuesday. The effort was brought to Albany as a method to quickly track down individuals with cognitive conditions who go missing.
ALBANY, Ga. -- The primary mission of Project Lifesaver is to provide a timely response to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer's, autism and other related conditions or disorders.
As one of two Project Lifesaver agencies in the Southwest Georgia area, the Albany Police Department Family Protection Unit showed its support of the mission by selecting three children to participate in the Project Lifesaver program, each of whom received a Project Lifesaver waterproof tracking bracelet Tuesday afternoon.
The initiative stems from the reality that the task of searching for wandering or lost individuals with Alzheimer's, autism, Down syndrome, dementia or other cognitive conditions is growing. Without effective procedures and equipment, searches can involve multiple agencies, hundreds of officers, countless man hours and thousands of dollars.
More importantly, every minute lost increases the risk of a tragic outcome, officials say.
"(With this technology) we can limit response time and locate people in a timely manner," said Kawaski Barnes, an APD detective.
Citizens enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear a bracelet around the wrist or ankle that emits an individualized tracking signal. If an enrolled client goes missing, the caregiver notifies their local Project Lifesaver agency -- in this case, APD -- and a trained emergency team responds to the wanderer's area with a transmitter in order to track the signal from the bracelet.
At the Albany Police Department, officers from multiple bureaus have been trained to use the equipment. Recovery times for Project Lifesaver International clients average 30 minutes, 95 percent less time than with standard operations, officials say.
The initiative was brought to Albany by Ann West after her son, Ty Christian West, now 6, went missing from home about two years ago.
Ty, who has Down syndrome and autism, had walked out the door while his mother was on the phone and the door to the family's home had been left open as visitors were coming in.
He was eventually found under someone's garage.
"I thought we had lost him for good," his mother said Tuesday. "I looked and saw that there was nothing in place for (locating a missing) child.
"This is something he (Ty) needs. It's an amazing thing. I can take a breath of relief."
The application process to receive a bracelet is open to the public through the APD Family Protection Unit. A campaign is currently ongoing to collect donations for the purchase of additional bracelets.
"We are making a plea to anyone who would like to join in this cause," APD spokeswoman Phyllis Banks said.
The bracelets cost roughly $250 each. To help move the effort forward, West did some fundraising of her own and presented a check for $600 to APD officials Tuesday.
Ty was deemed the first official Albany recipient of one the bracelets. J.E.B. Morrison, 12, and Xander Lane, 3, received the other two at Tuesday's presentation.
Those interested in making a donation toward the program or applying to receive a bracelet are encouraged to contact APD.