TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) — It’s the last thing any family wants to hear: a child who disappears from her home.
It happened to a family Wednesday night in Tupelo and police in the All-America City got to try out some new technology aimed at helping their investigations move even faster.
“You have, [in Lee County], 12 to 15 police officers on the street at any given time,” Tupelo Police Capt. Tim Tate said. “You have that limited resource there for them to [patrol] the streets to try and find the child, or you can send out calls to everybody in the Ida Street area where she came up missing. Everybody can look out their window and start looking.”
Within minutes of Tupelo officers learning of the situation, more than 1,300 Tupelo residents received a call to their homes.
That call gave a description of the 6-year-old girl to people who lived near the Ida Street/Lawndale Drive area, specifically chosen to get the word out immediately.
Within hours, authorities had located the young child.
Though Tate said the tips received didn’t really help them find the child…it was the first test of a program some may not even know they are a part of.
“We can use it for any kind of emergency situation that arises,” Lee County Emergency Management Director Lee Bowdry said. “If we have a chemical spill and we have to have an evacuation, we can call those houses within that 6, 10, 12 mile radius and let them know what has happened within minutes.”
These alerts get sent to phones based on an emergency database Lee County Emergency Management already has in place.
So if a wreck shuts down traffic around the Baldwyn area, for example, authorities can let only people who live in that area know about possible detours.
“This is one of the greatest tools we have to be able to reach our citizens. Here in Tupelo, in Lee County, we have over 30,000 active numbers within the system,” Bowdry said. “You’re looking at a county that’s 82,000 strong that would be hard to cover if we didn’t have a system like this.”
Bowdry said every law enforcement agency within a county that uses Code Red can take advantage of the new alerts.
Some residents asked why they received a call when they didn’t opt into the Code Red program.
Bowdry said that’s because you can only opt into the weather alerts feature.