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Police find missing Markham man thanks to wristband tracker

Police located a man missing from Markham on Wednesday with the help of a battery-operated wristband tracker.

In a news release Friday, York Regional Police said officers were able to pinpoint the 69-year-old man’s exact location on a TTC bus in the area of McCowan Road and Finch Avenue, thanks to the tracker.

Police released video footage of the rescue, capturing the moment officers learning the missing man had been found.

In the video, various officers can be heard saying, “Project Lifesaver is going off. Just confirming you found him? Got him. Let’s go. They got him? They got him. Let’s go. Let’s go. Wow. That’s insane. No way that could’ve been done without this helicopter.”

Participants of the police’s Project Lifesaver program wear a personal, one-ounce, battery-operated wristband that transmits an FM radio frequency 24-hours a day, the release said.

That frequency can be detected using a mobile tracking system, which police say helps them find and protect vulnerable citizens.

York police Const. Pete Gerulath, who was in the rescue helicopter, said at a news conference Friday that this was the first time police successfully used the chopper with Project Lifesaver wristbands to locate a missing person.

“Normally these… calls are resolved quite quickly on the ground, with members in police vehicles or on foot. But the fact that this gentleman had entered on the transit, traveled a significant portion away, traditional ground search methods wouldn’t have been successful,” said Gerulath.

Eligibility for tracker 

According to the police’s program website, participant must meet certain requirements to be eligible for the program. For those who do, participation is free, police say.

The person must be living with cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism or another condition that puts a person at risk of wandering. They must be monitored by, or reside with, a caregiver, or in a section of a facility that is not secure.

The participant must live in York Region and must not be involved in un-supervised activities that might increase risk of wandering. They also must not operate a motor vehicle.

Applicants can contact York police’s community engagement and wellbeing team.

Gene Saunders, CEO and founder of Project Lifesaver, says there have been about 4,200 documented rescues using the program. He said he was “very pleased” to read the report from York this week about another successful use of his technology.

“One of the most pleasing aspects of my position is being able to read those,” he said.

Saunders says searches for people with dementia come with particular difficulties, since the person being searched for often won’t respond to people calling for them and can wander off without a pattern. He says he developed the technology after several frustrating searches as a police officer in the 90s.

He says the company is working with the city of Toronto and he hopes the city will take up the tool as well.

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