tampabay.com

Vehicle will help save time to help save kids

By KIT INGALLS
Published March 28, 2007


HOLIDAY -The Pasco County Sheriff's Office will preview its new MAC (Missing and Abducted Child) Team mobile command center on Thursday, at the sixth annual Public Safety Awareness Symposium in Holiday.

"This new mobile office will take hours off our investigations," said Sgt. Brett Landsberg, who heads the juvenile investigation unit of the Sheriff's Office.

The first priority for detectives responding to missing and abducted child calls is finding the child alive.

"Time is against us," Landsberg said. "When children are abducted and murdered, 75 percent are killed within the first three hours of being taken."

The Sheriff's Office developed the MAC Team to operate in rapid response mode, to arrive at the scene within an hour of notification that a child is missing. Once there, specially trained investigators work quickly to direct searches, gather evidence and disseminate information about the child.

But, until now, the team's equipment did not arrive with it. Computers, faxes and high-speed printers stayed back at the office. Delays mounted as detectives dashed back and forth.

"This new vehicle is ergonomically designed to conduct an investigation," said Landsberg. "It has computers and all technology available inside so that, when we pull up in the parents' neighborhood, we don't have to leave."

Now the detectives will be able to mass-produce fliers and posters at the scene. In missing children cases, a picture is worth hours.

"With this technology, we can basically saturate an entire neighborhood, city, county or state in a matter of minutes, with the child's picture everywhere," Landsberg said.

The MAC Team will link to agencies such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Child Abduction Response Team.

The mobile unit will afford the MAC Team instant access to topographical maps of search areas, advanced GPS equipment, and maps showing locations of the more than 600 registered sex offenders in Pasco County.

LCD monitors will display continually updated situational reports. Ready access to e-mail will speed both communications and subpoenas.

The new unit is maneuverable, small enough to drive down neighborhood streets and lanes.

"There is nothing else out there that's like it," said Landsberg, who helped develop the idea and specifications for a mobile center designed specifically to track missing children. "We're on the forefront of this.

"We will use it for education and to track missing elderly as well. Pasco County has a large elderly population, and we can use this when people suffering from Alzheimer's disease or dementia go missing."

Landsberg emphasizes that Thursday's showing will be just a preview of the mobile unit. "We are still configuring the technology.

The command center's formal debut is scheduled for April 16, at the Sheriff's Office in New Port Richey. "We are inviting all the contributors," Landsberg said.

Funding for the MAC Team mobile unit came from donations and fundraising activities.

The team worked for more than two years to raise the $160,000 needed, using the effort to strengthen its community ties.

For, when the MAC Team searches for missing children, the community provides the eyes and ears.

If you go

Public safety awareness symposium

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office's sixth annual public safety awareness symposium will be held 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 2040 Grand Blvd. in Holiday. The event is free and includes a complimentary lunch, but seating is limited, so those who wish to attend should register in advance by calling 1-800-854-2862, ext. 3376.