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New way to catch kidnappers before they hurt the child!!! !

http://www/V3/newsfeed/stories/t/trackingkids.htm -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Satellite Device Helps Trace Kids

A N D E R S O N , S .C . (AP)

DAVE SMITH stares at a computer screen as a satellite map of North America telescopes down to a grid of a major city and, finally, to a single neighborhood with green space and railroad tracks. He clicks a mouse. A dial tone sounds, followed by the screech of a modem. Suddenly a little panda icon with a red bow tie appears at the intersection of Linwood Drive and Warren Road. A few seconds later, amid more tones and screeches, the panda lurches to another spot on the map. "He's out on the highway now," says Smith, a former Defense Department computer programmer. "We're within 100 yards of that right now - well within visual range." Smith, now a private computer consultant, has just accessed a global positioning satellite unit, or GPS, in Canada. But he's not tracking a stolen car. He's hunting down a kidnapped child - or, rather, a software engineer in Toronto posing as one for this test. All from a tiny office in South Carolina peach country. All because a pair of businessmen-grandfathers decided that if you can track a stolen car, you should be able to track a stolen child. "You can replace an automobile," says Bill Brown, who along with Dan Booker founded Protect Me Toys last year. "You can't replace a child." Their plan is to eventually give away the devices.

"We're not Bill Gates, but we live comfortably," says Booker, 50, who with Brown struck it rich selling prepaid telephone calling cards and drives a gleaming white Rolls-Royce to his Anderson office. The pair have spent about $250,000 of their own money to develop a system that can be hidden in the bottom of a backpack or in an unobtrusive fanny pack. Now they're looking for investors to help bring their plan to fruition. The idea developed a few years ago when Brown's son was divorced and Brown became concerned for the safety of his 3-year-old granddaughter. He says he went shopping for something that could help him keep track of her, but found nothing. The technology was focused on recovering cars. Brown, 48, says he was told that kids could be tracked only "when a child was capable of wearing a 40-pound battery."

There are more than 600,000 abduction attempts on children each year, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Each day, 2,300 children are reported missing and entered into the FBI's computer system. The two friends kept searching and eventually found Canadian Marconi Co., which was selling GPS units to do everything from tracking bulls on the loose to telling golfers how far they hit a ball. "It's unbelievable ... the different calls that you would get for weird applications," says Hubert Pellerin, product manager for Marconi's GPS group. "But this one was a really nice one. Because I have three kids, also." Marconi took a GPS card that it developed for Boeing 777s and made it more sensitive. It's about the size of a business card and weighs less than an ounce.

Pellerin combined the card with a cellular phone receiver and antenna. He added a layer of aluminum shielding to keep the components from interfering with each other. The entire package weighs around 1 1/2 pounds. The SatCel unit basically "sleeps" until it is called by the tracking center, so the 870-hour standby battery doesn't run down unnecessarily. There's no ringing when it is contacted, so as not to tip off a kidnapper. The signal can be reached anywhere that has cell phone coverage, and is strong enough to be detected from the trunk of a car. The GPS cannot be reached from inside a building, but its memory can play back its last 100 locations. Booker and Brown expect the unit to cost about $200, with a monthly activation fee of as little as $5.

This year, they tested the device with a juvenile justice agency and the Anderson Police, using Booker's 5-year-old granddaughter as the abductee and her father as the kidnapper. Officials say it worked splendidly. The first five units have been sent to Child Search, a Houston-based nonprofit group that hunts missing children, to be given to five children considered most at risk. Dr. Brandon Ward, operations officer of Child Search, says the concept has been discussed for years. "These are the first guys who've put their money where their mouth is," says Ward, whose group helped find more than 500 missing children last year. Smith, a consultant on the project, says its possibilities are numerous. People could use the device to track a grandparent with Alzheimer's disease, hikers, wayward teen-agers - even the school bus your child is riding. The device now is about the size of a box of animal crackers, but work is under way to make it smaller, stronger and more accurate. Fugawi Software, the Toronto firm that did the mapping, is developing a tracking system that can be run on a home computer. Brown envisions the day when a GPS unit can be sewn into a child's jacket or tucked into a shoe. "The predators," he says, "are going to watch TV and say, `It ain't like it used to be. We can't just snatch anybody we want to."'

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Allen G. Breed is the AP's Southeast regional reporter, based in Raleigh, N.C.






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