City police take lead in finding lost children |

City police take lead in finding lost children

William Ferchland
William Ferchland/Tahoe Daily Tribune Sherry Friedlander, left, founder of A Child is Missing Inc., speaks to the head of police communications Susan Keast and officer Donna Kingman about Friedlander's program that helps locate missing children.

South Lake Tahoe Police Department will be the first California law enforcement agency to adopt a program that can make 1,000 calls in one minute to find a missing child or lost elder.

The nonprofit organization A Child is Missing Inc. is based in Florida and is growing across the nation. It offers free service to local law agencies who want quick help from residents in finding abducted or lost children, wandering Alzheimers’ patients and mentally unfit people who wander from the hospital.

Listed phone numbers of homes and businesses are called in an area designated by authorities. Calls include a detailed recorded description of the person missing. The language can be changed. Messages can be left on answering machines.

Sherry Friedlander, founder and executive director of the program, and trainer Ralph Caporale visited South Lake Tahoe police Tuesday.

If a child is discovered missing a short distance from Stateline on the California side, calls can blanket a radius in both states. The program has corporation licenses in California, Nevada and a host of other states, Friedlander said.

Unlike the Amber Alert, which mobilizes by using highway traffic signs and radio and television programs, A Child is Missing is a solitary warning, Friedlander said.

Sgt. Brian Williams said the cost-free program would be a welcomed asset and reflect the department’s “philosophy of community oriented policing.

“The tale of Jaycee Dugard haunts our community and any tool of this nature that we have at our disposal we’ll take full advantage of,” Williams said.

Dugard was last seen as she walked to her bus stop in South Lake Tahoe June 10, 1991. It has been claimed that she was abducted by two individuals, a male and a female, who were driving a car. However, extensive law enforcement investigations since the time of her disappearance have neither identified any abductors nor revealed the location of the victim, according to the FBI.

Although the program is available in Nevada, Douglas County Sheriff’s Department is working on a system with Verizon, said Sgt. Tom Mezzetta.

“It’s absolutely a positive thing to have at the disposal of law enforcement because you can saturate an area with phone calls and information,” Mezzetta said.

Verizon allows Douglas County authorities to make the recording. The message is relayed to Verizon with an address and a requested distance radius for calls.

Mezzetta said that while the service with Verizon is being worked on the department would use A Child is Missing, Inc., if needed.

Friedlander said a “service” provides the program with phone numbers. Unlisted numbers are not included. Friedlander said the number of vacation homes and people who work night would not dramatically alter effective calls. She did warn that officers should be careful when ordering calls past 10 p.m.

Friedlander expects the service will be available to the department within three weeks. By 2005, she wants the entire United States covered, which would cost an annual $18 million in federal and grant money.

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– E-mail William Ferchland at

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