Sacto 9-1-1
October 17, 2012
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: Do police typically use robo-call alerts in missing person cases?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: I live in Oak Park and last night I got a phone call at 11:30 p.m., when I was in bed, half asleep, and it was a recorded message from the police department about a missing boy. Earlier in the evening, a cop helicopter flew above my neighborhood for 20 minutes with loud-speaker alerts about the boy. I've gotten used to helicopters flying above my neighborhood, but the robo-phone call from the police was a first. Do you know if such calls are now standard police procedure?
Submitted by: Sleepless in Oak Park, Sacramento

ANSWER: Sacramento police spokeswoman Officer Michele Gigante said the department uses its Reverse911 program to notify residents of situations involving health and safety concerns.

The automated phone calls typically are used for evacuation notices, or to advise neighborhood residents of a fire or a police stand-off. Gigante said the calls can be targeted to a specific area as small as a single apartment complex. Their use in missing person cases depends on the circumstances.

The case Tuesday night involved a 14-year-old boy believed to be seriously at risk due to a mental disability. He had just left his mother's vehicle at Second and San Jose avenues in Oak Park, so there was reason to believe he was still in that area, where officers were conducting a search.

Gigante said the Reverse911 calls were initiated at 9:36 p.m., one hour and 40 minutes after the search for the boy began.

The boy was found shortly after 10 p.m. at a bus stop at Franklin Boulevard and Florin Road. The teen was located by an officer who had traced the route he thought the boy might have taken between the point he went missing and his home, Gigante said.

For more information about the Reverse911 program, see the Sacramento Police Department website at www.sacpd.org.

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