TIFTON -- New technology for locating missing children went online Thursday throughout Georgia, making it possible for law enforcement to place 1,000 telephone calls within one minute.

At a press conference, Tift County Sheriff Gary Vowell said the nonprofit organization A Child Is Missing, Inc., is providing law enforcement agencies with a neighborhood calling system that will link officials and the public via rapid response telephone communication. The Georgia Sheriff's Association will make sure that local law enforcement agencies have access to the technology and training.

When a child is reported missing, the responding officer may call ACIM to have a technician record an individual alert message which will then be sent to numbers in the immediate area where the child was last seen. Call recipients are asked to call authorities if they have seen the person or have any information.

The system, which may also be used for the elderly or disabled who go missing, differs from the Levi's Call system for kidnapped children because the reporting officer does not have to go through verification process.

Vowell presented a $500 check to the program from local drug asset forfeiture funds, saying that his department supports the effort.

"We feel that strongly about A Child Is Missing and we want to invest in it," said Vowell.

"This issue has touched my own life. About 16 years ago, my 2-year-old son went missing. My wife lay down in the afternoon to take a nap, and when she woke up, he was missing. We lived on a large lake, and it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get people together to search.

"As it turned out, our child's grandmother had come by, and when she saw that my wife was sleeping, she took him to her house without telling anyone. But it was a really terrifying moment, one I'll never forget."

ACIM is in use in all of Florida, Rhode Island, Alaska and Ohio; in Boulder, Colo., and in parts of Oklahoma and Kentucky.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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