August 8, 2002

Federal Grant Helps Sheriff's Department Add Missing Child LOCATER

When a child is reported missing, time is one of law enforcement's greatest enemies. Every hour a child is missing, the likelihood of a safe recovery decreases. In order to ensure a high level of preparedness for child abduction cases, the Scotland County Sheriff's Department has implemented LOCATER, the Lost Child Alert Technology Resource.

There are many challenges facing law enforcement personnel in missing child cases. One of the greatest is collecting and disseminating the child's descriptive information quickly. With that goal in mind, LOCATER was created to provide the computer hardware and software needed to rapidly distribute critical missing child data on a local, state and nationwide basis.

"This new system gives us all the tools we need to allow our department to utilize all the available missing children resources," said Scotland County Sheriff Wayne Winn. "The LOCATER will ensure that if, in the rare case a child from Scotland County should go missing, we can make every effort to secure a safe recovery."

The sheriff's department has worked in conjunction with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to implement LOCATER. United States Congressional funds allow NCMEC to provide the LOCATER system free-of-charge to law enforcement agencies that investigate missing children cases. NCMEC has found that when pictures of missing children or their abductors are made available to the public, one in six children are recovered as a direct result of this information.

Using LOCATER, agencies can quickly create their own missing-person posters. Once created, high-quality copies can be printed for distribution at roll calls, at incident command posts, and to the community. Posters can also be electronically transmitted to other agencies, the media, and the public via the Internet or through a broadcast fax service.

Use of the LOCATER system, comprised of a Dell Pentium IV computer, HP Deskjet 940C printer, high-resolution scanner, and customized software, is not limited to missing children cases. It includes templates for more than 100 different types of posters such as missing adults, wanted persons, and crime alerts.

A similar system called the AMBER Plan has gained national publicity with recent success stories, including a California abduction case where the warning system was given credit for saving two teenage girls from being murdered by their abductor.

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