7 On Your Side

App allows parents to activate missing child alert

Thursday, February 14, 2013

20 years ago 12-year-old Polly Klaas was kidnapped from her home in Petaluma. Since then her father, Mark Klaas, has devoted his life to helping other parents of missing children. And now he has turned to technology to further the cause.

In light of the recent search for Kevin Collins, who's been missing for 29 years, I think we've all been wondering what we can do to protect our own children. Certainly, technology is much different than it was in 1984 when Kevin disappeared. Now, there's a new app that could be a lifesaver.

The Polly Klaas Foundation has recently introduced a smartphone app called Polly's Guardian Angel. If a child goes missing, the app enables parents to activate an alert right away to friends, family, and other nearby app users.

David Gonzales has three children and downloaded the app because of a recent abduction in his town, "We live in Morgan Hill, so obviously Sierra LaMar was a big incident in our neighborhood and so it brings about the awareness of your own children," he said.

Parents can download the app onto their iPhone for $4.99. An Android version will be released within a month.

A parent loads all the vital information of their child including pictures and information.

Safety Grid President Jim Hankins developed the app, "Plain facts that you would be able to recall at any time, you're going to be stumbling, and having quick access to the photos right there and distribute them," he said.

When an alert is activated, other app holders within a 15 mile radius are immediately notified. The app then guides you through the next steps.

"It prompts you to contact 911 if you haven't done so and then beyond that it will put you in contact with trained personnel at the Polly Center," said Marc Klaas. He notes that minutes are critical after a child goes missing, "It's become obvious to many people that Amber Alerts are too slow and too cumbersome."

It can take up to five hours from an initial police report before an Amber Alert is activated.

"I think that it does give me a little bit more piece of mind," Gonzales said.

The Klaas Foundation has also endorsed a combination GPS device and restricted cell phone that can be locked onto a child's wrist. The hope is that it will act as a deterrent to a potential kidnapper.

The new technology components of the Klaas Kids Foundation are all partnerships with outside companies and only a portion of the revenue goes to the foundation itself.

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Tags:
missing person, children, amber alert, 7 on your side, michael finney
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