Child and Elderly Missing Alert Program

Floor Speech

By:  Steve Chabot
Date: Sept. 11, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in support of H.R. 4305, a commonsense, bipartisan bill which would increase resources for local law enforcement to aid in the recovery of missing children and elderly adults. I would also like to thank my colleague, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Deutch), for his diligent work on this bill.

Every 40 seconds, a child goes missing. Throughout the United States, an average of 2,000 children under the age of 18 are reported missing every day, and as many as 800,000 each year are reported missing. Although many of our children are at risk, the risk for children living with autism is even greater. About one in four parents of children living with autism spectrum disorders have reported that their children have gone missing long enough to cause significant concern about their safety. In addition, health care reports show three out of five Americans living with Alzheimer's disease will sometimes wander from their locations and may be unable to find their way back home.

The need to locate missing children and seniors in some instances in the first hours of the disappearance is vital. Unfortunately, most law enforcement agencies lack the appropriate resources to knock on every door in the community in every unfortunate crisis.

Further, although the Amber Alert and Silver Alert are sometimes successful alert programs, there remains a crucial lapse of time between the point when a child or elderly adult is first reported missing and when one of these services can be utilized. This important legislation would help solve this problem by employing targeted telephone and cellular alerts within minutes of a missing person report to residents and businesses in the area where the person was last seen. In fact, as many as 1,000 calls can be made in merely 60 seconds, a vital asset in reaching the greatest number of neighbors in the early, critical moments of a search.

Targeted alert programs are typically available to law enforcement nationwide, and they're multilingual. The regional databases used for alerts can take years to build and contain an accumulation of public residential telephone numbers, as well as volunteered cellular phone numbers. These programs are able to utilize computer mapping and enhanced satellite imagery to select the targeted calling area.

To date, as many as 8,500 law enforcement agencies have received training with targeted alert programs. My legislation would support these programs which assist Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies in the rapid recovery of missing children and elderly persons while saving tax dollars. The automated alert systems are free for local law enforcement to use, saving thousands of dollars on a traditional search which could require as many as 10 officers on the ground at any one time.

A recent success story in my district highlights the value of a targeted telephone and cellular alert program. On February 1 of this year, a 9-year-old girl was reported missing from her home after she went to walk her dog and did not return. Sergeant Beavers of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department in Cincinnati contacted A Child is Missing and provided the girl's description to be distributed via a telephone alert. Nearly 1,700 alert calls were made asking that anyone with information contact the police. According to the case follow-up report after the alert was activated, several calls were received immediately, some containing valuable tips. The police used these tips to locate the girl safely approximately one-half mile away from her home in less than an hour after the activation of the alert.

When it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, it's important that we first equip our law enforcement at the local level. H.R. 4305 would facilitate the partnership of privately run programs with law enforcement and members of the community to safely recover missing individuals, whether they're minors or whether they be, in the case of Alzheimer's, for example, senior citizens.

I urge my colleagues to support this straightforward, bipartisan legislation.

Once again, I would like to thank Mr. Deutch for his leadership on this issue, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I would just like to conclude by saying that this is, I think, a very important program. Every parent I think is always afraid of that potential nightmare that one of their children goes missing. All of us that have senior grandparents, for example, know how prevalent Alzheimer's can be in the senior community. This is a program that can help those at a very early age and those later in their lives. I think it's a great program. I urge my colleagues to support it.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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