The chiefs of three local law enforcement agencies gathered at the Belfast Police Department April 4 to promote the official kickoff of a county-wide database that will help officers identify and connect with those in the community who are prone to wandering.

The wandering database kickoff party was hosted by Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden and Linda Lee, the Belfast mother who stepped up to get the idea off the ground. Also attending the event were Waldo County Chief Deputy Jeff Trafton and Searsport Police Chief Dick LaHaye.

Throughout the evening, many families came to sign their loved ones up for the database, a collection of personal information on each individual that is open only to law enforcement for the purposes of identifying those who may have wandered away from their home or school. The information in the database, aside from basics like name and birth date of the individual, also includes specifics like preferred nicknames, things that are known to trigger anxiety as well as subjects that are known to calm that particular person down in an adverse situation.

Those who attended the festivities were invited to enjoy the group with refreshments, including a cake that was made and decorated just for the occasion.

In the days leading up to the party, McFadden said he'd heard from a steady stream of people seeking more information on the database or requesting the forms to get their relatives signed up.

Lee came up with the idea about 18 months after she moved to Belfast with her own son, 15-year-old Christian "Tiger" Lee, who lives with an autism spectrum disorder. Lee brought her son to the Belfast Police Department in an effort to familiarize Tiger with the police officers and vice-versa, which seemed to be a fine way to help keep the boy safe should he wander away from home or school. That was, until Lee read an article in the New York Times that detailed the unsuccessful search for 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, an autistic boy who went missing from his New York City school and was recently found dead.

That was when she took her concerns a step further. She brought the idea of the database to McFadden, and with the chief's encouragement, Lee contacted the special education departments at the area school districts, as well as the public health nurse, staff at Waldo County General Hospital, the local nursing homes and Child Development Services to get the word out. With the help of the hospital staff, Lee made some brochures made up, which included the forms needed to include a loved one in the database.

In addition to helping those who have an autism spectrum disorder, the database can also be a useful tool for those caring for friends or relatives who suffer from other conditions that may cause people to wander, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Those interested in learning more about the database can visit the Belfast Police Department web page.