Police in St. Joseph County Indiana are helping families whose members have autism or dementia through an initiative called Project Lifesaver. According to a report this month by the Indiana news outlet WSBT.com, the project involves wearing a small bracelet that sends out a radio signal, allowing police to identify the wearer’s location as long as they are within a half mile radius.
The program has already helped one local mother, Nicole Willard, whose 7-year-old son Xavier has autism. In a terrifying incident two years ago, Xavier nearly drowned in the Saint Joseph River after being separated from his mother and two siblings at the park. Willard believes a tracking device like the ones provided by Project Lifesaver could have prevented Xavier from endangering himself in the first place.
“It tells you if you're hot or cold, even if somebody's hiding in a bush or in a tree,” South Bend Councilmember Troy Warner said. “It kind of sends you in a direction.” Warner added that St. Joseph County police are seeking grant money and financial aid from corporate donors, so that families don’t need to foot the bill themselves. Three officers are currently trained to use the system, and they plan to start giving out the bracelets in January.
Willard said the Project Lifesaver device goes a long way in relieving her anxiety about Xavier’s safety.
“I mean you're always going to have that -- at least I will -- probably have that constant fear when we are anywhere,” she said, “but at least it takes the anxiety away a little bit to where I feel like I can go with him to the park.”