NORTH BRANCH, Minn. (KMSP) - Finding vulnerable adults who wander away from their homes is a task that used to take hours, even days for law enforcement, but with the help of some new technology--that feels markedly old school--departments across Minnesota are cutting that time to just minutes in some cases.
Project Lifesaver provides an ankle bracelet to caregivers and families that sends out a radio signal and can be tracked by police when a missing person call comes in. Many might consider the technology outdated, but those who use it say going old school is what makes it so successful.
"We can actually do a search under water up to 12 feet deep," Sheriff's Deputy Mark Stovern said. "GPS isn't going to do that."
The Chisago County Sheriff's Department is one unit that got the opportunity to test out the technology over the weekend after an autistic adult left his group home and walked into a rural field near North Branch. Cold temperatures made the recovery effort all the more important, and within 30 minutes of the original 911 call he had been found.
"In that instance it was probably right around 10 minutes [to find the man]," Sheriff's Deputy Derek Anklan said. "It took us longer to get there and get set up than it took to find him."
It's experiences like this that make Chisago County advocate for more people to sign up for the program, which covers the costs of the ankle bracelet and only asks people to pay for replacement batteries that cost about $5 every other month.