Racine Alderman proposes text alerts for missing persons

RACINE (WITI) -- A group of Racine residents have come together to develop a local text alert system in an effort to draw volunteer search parties when a member of the community goes missing.

Racine Alderman Eddie Diehl came up with the idea after 57-year-old Ruben Santos wandered away from an assisted living facility on December 22nd. Santos' body was found on Racine's south side five days later.

When the man's death was attributed to exposure to the elements, Alderman Diehl says he couldn't stop thinking about how Santos may have been found sooner.

"I thought, what if we could have a pre-selected group of volunteers who could be contacted, automatically via text message, and say 'we need all of you here, right now, to start a search,'" said Diehl.

The text alert system, Diehl explained, could compliment existing search protocol and include existing search organizations such as the county's Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT.

"They have a small group of volunteers they work with but this would be a large number of volunteers in the community," Diehl said.

While the idea is in its infancy, Diehl explains it is gaining momentum. On Thursday, January 16th, the system was discussed with city administrators and Racine County Emergency Management Coordinator David Maack.

"It allows you to cover more territory more efficiently and I think that's going to be the key to a volunteer effort like this," said Maack.

Diehl says he has already received significant interest from city residents regarding the text alert system.