Daviess Co. text/call alert program helps locate teens

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WTHI Photo

WASHINGTON, Ind. (WTHI) – A piece of technology and an observant Daviess County resident get the credit for helping find two teenagers reported missing this week.

The parents of a 14-year-old girl notified the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office Monday after the teen did not get off of school bus. Daviess County Sheriff, Jerry Harbsteit, noted he put his deputies in action to help find the girl.

According to Harbstreit, the teenager was reportedly with a juvenile male, also 14.

“So we did start looking for her and we did discover that her and another male juvenile had taken off on a motorcycle,” said Harbstreit.

Deputies searched through Monday night into Tuesday morning but were unable to locate the teenager.

Harbstreit said the department was able to ‘ping’ the teenager’s phone; a tracking technique in which the phone signal is followed based on which cellular towers its utilizing; however Harbstreit said deputies couldn’t pinpoint an exact location.

Enter CodeRED.

After running out of options finding the two teenagers, the Sheriff’s Department asked Daviess County Emergency Management to utilize its computer-based alert notification system, CodeRED, to help locate the teens.

The CodeRED alert system sends text messages, e-mails and mobile and land line telephones automated messages.

“The positive thing on this is that most of the people are tethered to their telephones now,” said Pall Goss, Director, Daviess County Emergency Management Agency.CodeRED1

According to its website, CodeRED offers the following services: “This service can be used in case of fires, chemical spills, evacuations, lock downs, downed power lines, lost individuals, natural disasters, abductions, water system problems, bomb threats, or other emergencies.”

After this week’s CodeRED operation, the Daviess County Emergency Management Agency can now add ‘finding people’ to that list as well.

How It Works:

In order to receive the CodeRED Alerts, people must sign up for the service.

It is free, and available at city and county websites. Those websites will be provided below. According to documents from the Sheriff’s Department, this CodeRED Alert reached 43 citizens in the selected three mile radius.

Based on the information provided by the Sheriff’s Department, Emergency Management initiated the alert within a three mile radius of the female teen’s ‘pinged’ cell phone signal.

“We can put a polygon, a circle, a square, we can put any size in any direction,” said Goss. After the perimeter is set, the automated message is delivered to people who sign up for the service. And in this case, Goss notes, the results were almost instant. “The launch went out at 11:09 [AM] and within 1 minute and 48 seconds later, the individual who ended up calling back here with the information had been notified. So in less than two minutes from the initial launch, this gentleman had the information that he shared with us.”

An interesting twist 

The automated message asks its recipients to contact the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department with tips and information. It provides a contact number at the end of the message. However, in this particular case, the person who received the alert, knew Sheriff Harbstreit.

“Actually on my cell phone rather than the calling the department, I had some of the folks there that knew me, knew my cell phone and actually called me personally and said I think I know where this little girl’s at,” the Sheriff said. Harbstreit noted he safely had the girl at the Sheriff’s Department within 20 minutes of receiving the initial call.

The automated message reported the two teenagers as ‘runaways.’ Both teenagers were transported to a juvenile detention center in Knox County and faced disciplinary action for ‘leaving home without permission.’

“It’s showing that it’s very effective with public safety,” said Harbstreit.

To sign up for the alert in Daviess County, click here.

To sign up for the alert in Knox County, click here.

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