NORTH PORT — Only 11 residents of the city are now using a free tracking device designed to reunite family members when a member may have wandered off.

Joseph Fussell, a commander with the North Port Police Department, wants to change all that.

“We would like hundreds, maybe thousands, to be enrolled in the program,” Fussell said. “The program is free and is able to track anyone anywhere on the planet.”

The tracking system is operated by Project Lifesaver, a non-profit organization.

The equipment is available through the North Port Police Department.

“It’s very useful when an elderly member of the family may wander off or for people who have an autistic child who has orientation problems,” Fussell said. “Across the country, it has saved lives and helped locate 3,500 missing persons.”

As long as the missing person is wearing a small pendant, authorities can quickly hone in on the individual and render aid.

“We have a missing ‘walk-off’ person report about every other week in North Port,” he said. “It’s a timely location process and if we have to use our helicopter to locate them, it can cost us up to $1,200 an hour.”

North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said the Project Lifesaver program is “not new technology, but it has new training to make it better.”

He said he wants his force to be dedicated to “saving lives and bringing people home. This is a way to help and save people.”

Fussell said anyone in the city wants take part in the program, they should call him at 941-429-7345 during normal business hours.

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