FAIRFIELD - Fairfield University and the police department are working to get the word out about a joint program that aims to find and safely return missing people suffering with autism, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Fairfield Police Officer Mike Stahl, who graduated from Fairfield University, was inspired to do more when a fellow officer found an autistic teen who had been wandering around.
"He wasn't able to communicate verbally, non-verbally — in any written form," says Stahl. "So, it was definitely a challenge to identify who he was and get him home safely or figure out if he was suffering from a medical condition," says Stahl.
He teamed up with Dr. Wook-Sung Yoo, of Fairfield University, who worked with software engineering students to build the SafeReturn program, which cross-references a variety of information to help identify and quickly track down people who go missing, especially people with certain diseases or disabilities.
Officers can search the database to identify people based on descriptions and even to find information about things that may fascinate the missing person.
Work continues at Fairfield University, where the co-founders are working to add additional features and to expand SafeReturn to surrounding cities. It has been up and running for about a year.
Residents can register their loved ones with the program.