New phone-alert system helped find missing woman

A 75-year-old Magnolia woman suffering from Alzheimer's Disease wandered away from her home on 29th Avenue West on Tuesday, May 15, but she was found several hours later - thanks to a Ft. Lauderdale-based phone-alert system called "A Child Is Missing (ACIM)."

It's like a reverse 911 call that goes out to residents in areas where both children and adults have gone missing, said Seattle Police Department spokesperson ReneƩ Witt.

Washington is one of 20 states that use the nonprofit organization's system, according to the ACIM Web site. Here's how it works:

Someone calls police to report a missing child, adult or disabled person. Police then use a toll-free number to call ACIM with information that includes the missing person's age, physical description, medical or psychological conditions, home address, location where the person was last seen, a case number and the location of the police department that took the original call.

If a child is missing, the Web site adds, ACIM also wants to know if the local police department is aware of any sex predators living within a mile of the last place the missing child was seen.

The organization then uses the information to record a message, plugs into a computer database and sends the phone message to residents and businesses in the area where the missing person was last seen.

It was the second time the Magnolia woman had wandered off, Witt said, but in this instance, two Magnolia men heard the phone message about her dis-appearance, changed their usual jogging path and found the woman partway down an embankment, they said.

Stuart Vincent and his partner, Jim Dyer, typically go for a jog with their dog, Dyson, on 28th Avenue West, Vincent said. However, after hearing the phone alert giving a description of the missing woman and where she was last seen, the men decided to run on 29th Avenue West, instead, Vincent said. "But we really didn't expect to find her."

The two men were a good half-mile into their jog when Dyson suddenly stopped - which is unusual - and the men spotted the woman on the side of an embankment, said Vincent, adding that the woman looked like she was gardening.

Vincent and Dyer stopped and talked to the woman, and it was obvious she had fallen down, Vincent said. It was also obvious she had mental problems, he said. "We probably wouldn't have been so curious ... if we hadn't heard the [phone] message," Dyer added.

"She didn't seem like a damsel in distress," said Vincent, who added that the woman had cuts on her arm and had only slipper socks for footwear. "That was a big giveaway," Dyson said.

Dyson and Vincent spotted a patrol car about half a block away and flagged the officer down, Vincent said. "I guess they'd been looking for her for hours," he said of police.

The Web site lists a number of success stories linked to the organization, and Witt from the Seattle police thinks the discovery of the missing Magnolia woman was the first time the system has been used in this city.

Vincent and Dyer both pooh-poohed the idea of them being heroes for finding the woman.

"Blame it on the dog," Vincent grinned. "He's the one who stopped."

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at or 461-1309.

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