West Carrollton recently embarked on a community safety tool designed to help law enforcement get at-risk individuals home safely.
Under the Safe Encounter program, “friends, family and loved ones can create a profile for any dependents with intellectual disabilities, severe mental health issues, or non-verbal communication styles, the company said.
Those individuals may have Alzheimer’s, dementia, Down syndrome, autism, mental health issues, cognitive disabilities, nonverbal communication styles or other conditions.
“The at-risk population is, I think, far greater than people actually realize,” said West Carrollton Police Chief Doug Woodard.
Under the program, if an individual wanders away from home, law enforcement can refer to a database to identify the individual, learn more about any health conditions, prepare for how they react to various triggers and pinpoint locations they may frequent, the city said.
“Not too long ago, we ended up responding to a location in our city that deals with Alzheimer’s patients,” Woodard said. “That was about two o’clock in the morning and one of their Alzheimer’s patients had wandered off. That would have been a beneficial time for us to have this program up and running.”
Police ended up finding the person somewhere between hour-and-a-half to two hours later, “but that’s what this program is designed for, is for situations like that,” he said.
Safe Encounter also can be used to replace programs like Ident-A-Kid, where parents attending events like National Night Out would register their child, take a photograph and some fingerprints and fill out information “the old-fashioned way,” Woodard said.
Parents can register their children as part of the program just for safety’s sake and without them having any type of physical, cognitive or developmental issues, he said.
Woodard said the department’s officers can access Safe Encounter data on the computer in their vehicle and on their phone, which he said is going to be “a huge benefit.”
West Carrollton Police Department isn’t limiting enrollment in the program to its citizens, he said.
“For example, if there’s somebody that lives in Miamisburg, that may be at risk and … has wandered off or may wander off and they might end up coming to West Carrollton, those those people can register as well,” Woodard said. “We’re not going to refuse registering anybody. We want to make this as beneficial as possible to everybody.”
Woodard said West Carrollton, which launched the Safe Encounter program earlier this month, is the first city in Ohio to pilot the safe encounter program.
He said he learned about the program at a conference and left his business card with the company, which eventually reached out to him to ask if he was interested in learning more about the program.
The city is paying $2,500 a year for the first three years of the program, Woodard said, a price he said is “a considerable savings.”
For more information on safeencounter.org or www.westcarrollton.org/departments/police-department.