Take Me Home program launches to protect at-risk persons

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Police Department is in the process of implementing Take Me Home, a program that will help law enforcement officials locate and safely bring home special-needs children, seniors and others who are at a high risk of wandering away from home. According to West Orange Police Chief James Abbott, the program went into effect Jan. 1.

The goal of the program is to help find anyone who has run or wandered away and bring them home safely. Individuals and families of individuals who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, autism and other developmental disabilities can provide a photo, contact information and descriptive information to make an identification card, which the police will use to locate and identify the person. Program participation is voluntary for families and individuals.

“They’ll provide us with info that might help, like some favorite places where someone might have gone,” Abbott told the West Orange Chronicle in a phone interview on Dec. 19. “Sometimes we might find them before the families know they’re gone, and the card will help with that.”

Abbott said that the police department has been called in for similar situations before, though locating people who have wandered away is not a widespread problem.

“It’s not uncommon for the police to be in this situation,” he said. “There have been different things that we’ve been involved with.”

Abbott also said that the department has no way of knowing how many people will sign up for the program, and that word of mouth is usually the best way to such a program up and running.

“I think it depends on the people who will sign up and their families,” he said. “It will probably start off slow and then pick up a little later. A lot of the time families who are dealing with the same types of things talk to each other and share, so that’s the best way to promote it, rather than social media and stuff like that.”

To sign up for the Take Me Home program, complete the form found at www.westorange.org. The form can be sent via email along with a recent photograph to Officer Chris Jacksic or Capt. Tim Brennan at [email protected] or [email protected], dropped off in person at the police department at 60 Main St., or picked up by the department. To have information picked up, contact Jacksic at 973-325-4045 or Brennan at 973-325-4007.

“We’re excited about it, it lends itself to the town,” Abbott said of the new program.

Mayor Robert Parisi agreed, saying it could help save important time in a search for a loved one.

“The program allows residents to register ahead of time. That way if an elderly or at-risk person is missing, we have their information on file and can start looking for them immediately,” Parisi said in an email to the Chronicle on Dec. 22. “This saves families and police critical time in locating loved ones.”