Morris County Sheriff's Officer Swiftly Locates Elderly Project Lifesaver Client, Walks Him Home

Published on June 09, 2020

All the stars were aligned the morning of June 4, when Morris County Sheriff's Officer Travis Somerville learned that an elderly client of the Office's Project Lifesaver program was missing from his home.

Morris County Sheriff's Officer Travis Somerville with the tracking device used in the Project Lifesaver program. Morris County Sheriff's Officer Travis Somerville with the tracking device used in the Project Lifesaver program.

Officer Somerville, coincidentally, was near the client's home. His training immediately kicked in and within seven minutes the 82-year-old male client was found “ a positive outcome that is envisioned for all Project Lifesaver clients who might slip away from home or while out with family or caregivers.

I was in the right place at the right time. It was a good feeling to find him. His wife, who is the primary caretaker, was very relieved and grateful. She was happy to see how well the equipment worked to get her husband home safely, Officer Somerville said.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon commended Officer Somerville, who is assigned to the Office's Community Outreach and Planning Section (COPS), for his calm and quick response Thursday morning.

Thank you to Officer Somerville for quickly stepping in to locate, and then escort home, this vulnerable client. Project Lifesaver is an invaluable and free program that lets Morris County Sheriff's Officers fulfill a guardian role of keeping watch over some of our community's most at-risk residents, Sheriff Gannon said.

Free of charge, Project Lifesaver provides enhanced support and assistance to Morris County residents who are primary caregivers for individuals with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia disorder, as well as families of children with Down syndrome, autism, traumatic brain injuries or cognitive impairments.

Morris County Sheriff's Officer Travis Somerville Morris County Sheriff's Officer Travis Somerville

There currently are 136 adults and children enrolled in the Morris County Sheriff's Office Project Lifesaver program. All wear a wrist or ankle bracelet equipped with a small transmitter that emits a signal that law enforcement Officers use to track the person if they go missing.

Morris County's speed at finding clients is better than the national average “ approximately 13 minutes in Morris County versus about 30 minutes on average nationally. Founded on a principle of providing peace of mind to families and caregivers, the program operates nationwide, allowing families to vacation and still use the program to find a loved one if he or she wanders.

Officer Somerville on June 4 had just finished changing the transmitter batteries for one client in Rockaway Borough and then called the wife of a Project Lifesaver client in Dover to see if he could drop by to change the batteries in her husband's wrist transmitter.

The spouse told Officer Somerville she had been about to call him. Her husband, who is diagnosed with dementia, had left the house while his wife was momentarily occupied.

Officer Somerville immediately started driving to the Dover residence and while en route, contacted the Morris County Communications Center at 10:25 a.m. to convey that the Sheriff's Office K-9 Section and Dover Police Department needed to respond.

Officer Somerville set his hand-held tracking device with the specific frequency of the Dover client's wrist transmitter. As he approached the client's home, the tracking device began chirping, indicating the client was nearby.

Officer Somerville scanned sidewalks and both sides of the street for the elderly gentleman, whom he spotted emerging from a convenience store carrying a cup of coffee, about a block from his home. The time was 10:32 a.m.

Officer Somerville pulled over by the store and approached the client, who appeared confused but recognized Officer Somerville as a uniformed law enforcement Officer. Within moments, a Dover Police Officer, a Dover Rescue Squad EMT and Morris County Sheriff's Officer Will Diaz, who was on patrol in the area, arrived.

The man's daughter, who works in the area, also arrived at the scene. Officer Somerville then took a stroll with the client to his home, to reunite him with his wife, his primary caretaker.

I'm glad for the chance to help people in the community, Officer Somerville said.

Morris County's Project Lifesaver program receives some funding through an Area Plan Sub-Grant from the county of Morris's Division on Aging, Disabilities and Veterans.

Please click on the link for information on connecting a loved one to Project Lifesaver:

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