Valparaiso mayor plays hide-and-seek to promote tracking service
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent September 19, 2013 6:13PM
Porter County Sheriff David Lain, right, talks about the Project Lifesaver bracelet he is about to put on Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas Thursday at Central Park Plaza. | Post-Tribune
To enroll in Project Lifesaver, contact Porter County TRIAD, 477-3125, or Porter County Sheriff David Lain, 477-3112.
Updated: October 21, 2013 2:13PM
VALPARAISO — Mayor Jon Costas was found safe and sound Thursday morning behind the old county jail after wandering about three blocks from Central Park Plaza.
But Costas was never really lost. In a high-tech game of hide-n-seek, two teams of law enforcement officers tracked him downtown using Project Lifesaver, a radio-transmitting device that helps find folks who’ve wandered away.
Porter County Sheriff David Lain and representatives of Porter County TRIAD, with the help of the mayor, demonstrated how the device works to get the word out about how it can be used to find a lost loved one who suffers from memory loss or other medical issues.
“Project Lifesaver has been available for a number of years in Porter County but I feel it has been severely underutilized. We want awareness for the program,” Lain said.
There are 12 people in the program now, though it’s had as many as 18 in past years, Lain said. While the transmitters cost $300, the program runs on donations. Families who participate are given the device for free and asked to donate $300 for the next person who signs up, but no one is turned away if they can’t pay. The sheriff’s department underwrites monthly costs associated with the program, such as new batteries.
Once a caregiver calls 911, a law enforcement team is sent out to find the missing person. The transmitter has a range of 2 to 5 miles, Lain said, and can be tracked from the air within a 10-mile radius.
Looking for a lost person without Project Lifesaver requires a tremendous investment of manpower, Lain said, adding: “All too often, there’s a tragic end.”
With the transmitter, a missing person can be found within 30 minutes, he said. Nationwide, more than 2,700 people have been saved through the program, with no injuries.
Searchers found the mayor, who hid with Louise Thompson, community outreach specialist for the Alzheimer’s Association, in less than 20 minutes, though they were sometimes stymied when the radio signal bounced off brick buildings downtown.
Costas and Thompson were in the parking lot of the old jail, on Monroe Street, which Costas said was “a pretty good spot” because he couldn’t be found too easily.
Project Lifesaver is a cost-effective way to find people, said Costas, an elder law attorney, who also noted that the need for such programs would be on the upswing.
“As Baby Boomers get older, the numbers are going to increase,” he said.