PALM HARBOR — A radio tracking system used by Pinellas deputies to find missing people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's disease yielded results Friday when a deputy was able to quickly locate a missing Palm Harbor man.
A deputy found 69-year-old Paul Watkins sitting at a Clearwater bus stop around 1:20 a.m. He had left his home on Homestead Terrace South sometime late Thursday night or early Friday morning, according to his wife. She said she last saw him when they went to bed around 11 p.m. Thursday, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.
Watkins' wife called the Sheriff's Office when she woke and realized he was missing around 12:40 a.m. Friday.
Watkins was wearing his Project Lifesaver bracelet, which includes a transmitter that sends a signal that can be picked up by a locating device. He suffers from a medical condition that can cause confusion, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff's Lt. Kevin Bennett, 38, who is trained to use the equipment, tracked Watkins to a bus stop at 31594 U.S. 19 N in Clearwater "within minutes of arriving in the area," the Sheriff's Office said.
Project Lifesaver is used countywide to locate people suffering from medical conditions that may cause them to wander from their homes. It is managed by the Sheriff's Office, which began the program in April 2009. Watkins is the third person found in Pinellas County since the program's inception.
The initial fee is $300, then $70 annually for replacement batteries and wristbands. Some need-based financial assistance is available.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda encouraged county residents to register their loved ones who may be likely to wander.
"It may help to find your loved one when it comes down to it," she said.
Each user gets a bracelet with a transmitter that sends a signal assigned to that person. The batteries are changed by deputies every 30 days.