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Ham radio operators will serve as extra eyes, ears for sheriff#039;s office

It has become the national tragedy of Summer 2002, repeated over and over in one community after another. The names and the faces change, but the story remains the same: a child abducted somewhere in the United States.

While local people pray it never happens here, one group of volunteers last night pledged to lend a hand if it ever does.

Members of the Lawrence County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) met with Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton to map out a plan to mobilize ham radio operators to help look for abducted children.

Training for the program could start as early as September, with a practice drill a month later.

Sexton told the approximately 40 people who attended the meeting that he welcomes the extra help.

"We're short on road patrol," Sexton said. "The more eyes and ears we have in the community the better. You could be dispatched to certain places, not to take action but to report to law enforcement on what you find."

The plan to involve ham operators would work something like this: when the Sheriff’s Office gets a call about an abduction, the dispatcher would give the information about the incident to an ARES contact person, who would immediately signal other amateur radio operators. The ham volunteers would then go to designated areas, such as Lake Vesuvius or the strip mines to look for the missing person and their abductor.

A survey in Washington State showed that 74 percent of children who are abducted by strangers are murdered within three hour of the time they’re kidnapped.

ARES Deputy Emergency Services Coordinator Ken Massie said ham operators could be effective volunteers because many of them have radios mounted in their cars, and can be on the road within minutes of receiving notice they’re needed.

Sexton got a tour of the ARES mobile command center, a specially outfitted motor home equipped with ham radios and other equipment needed to transmit in the event of an emergency.

Local ham operators have for years been heavily involved with Sky Warn, a program through which amateur radio operators submit local weather reports to state and national officials in the event of severe weather, such as snow storms.

Monday night’s meeting drew ham operators from Scioto and Athens counties, and from Boyd, Greenup and Lawrence counties in Kentucky and from Cabell County, W.Va.. One ham operator from the Cincinnati area attended the meeting.

Lawrence County ARES Emergency Services Coordinator Michael Love said he hopes his counterparts in other areas will follow suit and join this fledgling effort.

&uot;With our locality, with the bridges connecting us to Kentucky and West Virginia, if someone planned an abduction they could be across a bridge in minutes,&uot; Love said.

Boyd County ARES Emergency Coordinator Jerry Caudill suggested a meeting between ham operators and sheriffs throughout the Tri-State.

&uot;I think this is a great idea,&uot; Caudill said. he praised the Lawrence County ARES group for taking the initiative in the matter. &uot;I feel certain this group won’t let the idea die on the vine. I hope it grows throughout the Tri-State.&uot; Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune