Missing boy case stirs new interest in tracking tech

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A recent search for a missing Hancock County child has emergency workers looking toward technology.

There was a giant search when four-year-old Kyle Pierce wandered from his home near New Palestine earlier this month.

"The worst five hours of my life, definitely," said Kyle's mother, Sara.

They found the boy in a cornfield, but it got rescuers thinking they've got to do more to get life-saving technology into the field.

"A radio receiver, a radio transmitter," said Greenfield Police Det. John Cutler.

Cutler showed off the components of a tracking system called "CARE TRAK" that is being worn on the wrists of about a dozen people in Greenfield. The system looks like a funky watch, worn by kids and adults at risk of walking away.

If someone disappears, their family calls police. Detectives tune in the person's unique frequency on the receiver, drive to where the person was last seen and begin listening for their wristband to ping.

"As we're getting closer, that little needle is gonna start jumping around," Cutler said, pointing to the meter on the electronic box hanging from his neck.

He turns the receiving antenna in a circle.

"Needle's moving around quick, so we know we're in the right direction," he says.

So they move toward the strongest signal.

"There's also an audio chirp you can hear," Cutler said.

The device has a one-mile range on the ground and five miles from an aircraft. The average time to find someone is 20 minutes.

"And we've located you," Cutler says as he finds me on a bench outside the police station, the transmitter in my pocket.

But this is critical.

"We'd like for them to call as soon as possible. Make sure that child doesn't get out of the immediate vicinity of the last known location," said Det. Randy Ratliff.

Kyle Pierce didn't have a tracker. He lives outside Greenfield, but after his case, Greenfield Police Chief John Jester said, "Sheriff Mike Shepherd and I have been working to get it countywide, but we're looking still at funding. Our program is run off of donations. We don't feel it's fair to charge a family member for this."

Sugar Creek Township Fire Chief John Begovich says the New Palestine search is "the poster child for this situation. Hopefully middle of next month we'll have that remedied."

"Luckily, we had the outcome we did," Sara Pierce said. "(It is) extremely important for those tracking devices to be made available for children who wander off."

If you live in Hancock County and need a tracker, call Greenfield Police. The department is also taking donations so they can buy more of the wristbands, which run more than $400 each.