Project Lifesaver helps families find loved ones who tend to wander

Southern Utah

ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) – Family members of those with autism or dementia are often fearful they will wander off or even get lost. St. George police are encouraging families to utilize a free program called Project Lifesaver, which helps law enforcement bring their lost loved ones home safely.

Taylor and Marshall Cox of St. George said they began desperately searching for their 4-year-old son Desmond who went missing last month.

“We knew that he was gone, and I said, ‘I’ll grab the keys, and I’ll go start looking,'” said Marshall Cox.

Desmond has nonverbal autism, so the Cox family says they must always stay vigilant. If they lose sight of him for even a moment, he’ll wander from their home.

“Somehow he had gotten into a neighbor’s backyard, and he had scaled their 6-foot wall and was about to jump out,” said Taylor Cox. “We really thought, ‘How much more could we have been vigilant?’ I think as special needs parents, our number one priority is safety.”

The mother of two said luckily a St. George police officer and her mother-in-law caught Desmond just in time after he was gone for nearly an hour.

Authorities put the Cox Family in touch with Project Lifesaver, and now both of their sons with autism wear a waterproof GPS tracker at all times.

“Project Lifesaver is that one more added assurance that he’s going to be OK,” Taylor Cox said. “This doesn’t just give us more security around our home; we can take the boys to the park and I can go get groceries.”

The family said if either of their kids were to go missing again, all they would need to do is call 911. Dispatchers will ping their children’s location and send a police car to pick them up.

While the program was implemented in early 2015, St. George police officer Tiffany Atkin said only 60 people are enrolled, although it could help police find at-risk individuals sooner.

“When someone goes missing, it’s all hands on deck at St. George Police Department,” said Atkin. “This project could be for you and we’d encourage you to reach out to us. We know what you’re going through, and we’re here for you.”

If you know someone who could benefit from Project Lifesaver, call SGPD at 435-627-4301 for more information.

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