CRYSTAL LAKE – Local police officers took part in training Monday at the McHenry County Mental Health Board with technology that helps authorities locate missing people.
Officers from Crystal Lake, McHenry and Woodstock practiced using Care Trak, a mobile tracking system designed to find people who have wandered away from home. The person at risk of wandering wears a radio frequency wristband, and if they leave home, police officers use that tracking system to find them.
“I would say McHenry County is the most equipped county in the state of Illinois as far as Care Trak,” said Sean McGrath, a Care Trak national trainer and Crystal Lake police officer. McGrath supervised Monday’s training at the Mental Health Board headquarters.
To be eligible for Care Trak, a person must be at risk of wandering, be under 24-hour supervision, and have a documented diagnosis of autism, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other developmental disability.
The program was implemented in McHenry County in 2009, and police have had to use the equipment only twice. In both instances, the individuals were found by others before police had a chance to locate them.
Currently, eight people in McHenry County use Care Trak services.
“The purpose of Care Trak is to provide family members with a backup plan in the event that their family member should wander,” McGrath said. “It’s a tool not only for the family, but for law enforcement. If they do wander off, we have the ability to pick up the radio frequency and track them from that point last seen, until we locate the transmitter.”
McHenry County police officers practice using the equipment two to three times a year, McGrath said.
Care Trak uses radio-wave telemetry to find the missing person. The officer will use a hand-held directional antenna that is plugged into a receiver, which is in line with the transmitter worn by the missing person.
Radio-wave telemetry is the preferred method of tracking, compared with GPS, because the device does not depend on satellites or towers, both of which can have weak signals. No search using Care Trak has lasted more than 30 minutes.
“It really gives parents and spouses peace of mind,” said Tammy Stroud, traumatic brain injury coordinator for the Mental Health Board. “We’ve all heard the stories of where people go missing and then they are found frozen to death somewhere.”
The service has an initial fee of $270, which is paid to Care Trak, and costs $4 a month to change the battery, Stroud said.
To learn more Those interested in using Care Trak should contact the McHenry County Mental Health Board at 815-455-2828.