KPD taps into national missing children system

Posted: Monday, April 22, 2002

The Kenai Police Department now has access to a national emergency alert system for locating missing children.

A Child is Missing (ACIM) is a private, nonprofit corporation providing law enforcement agencies with a neighborhood calling program using the latest telecommunications technology.

Lt. Chuck Kopp explained that the system allows officers who determine a child is missing under suspicious or dangerous circumstances to call a toll-free number from the scene and provide the location and description of the child. A computer system calls every residence and business within a one-mile radius with a recording of the information and the phone number for the Kenai police. The system can make more than 1,000 calls in five minutes.

The benefit, Kopp said, is that the recording encourages people to take a look around their neighborhood and allows search parties to get out on the streets instead of going door-to-door. It also increases the number of people looking for the missing person.

In addition to missing children, the system also can be used to search for elderly or disabled people who become lost or disoriented or to notify neighborhoods when a child is found. That is especially helpful when police find a young child who cannot provide their name, address or phone number.

Kenai police investigate reports of three to four missing children every year. The children have always been located, either quickly or after a long search, Kopp said.

"A program like this certainly speeds it up," he added.

ACIM was founded by a nonprofit group in Florida in 1996 after a high number of children were abducted along the eastern seaboard. Less than 10 states have agencies participating in the program, and Idaho and Alaska are the only participants west of the Rocky Mountains. But, Kopp said, more are coming online all the time.

The program requires large grants from phone companies who donate their entire directories to computer databases.

It is free to law enforcement agencies.



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