Technology is playing a bigger role in child abduction and missing person cases in the Brazos Valley region of central Texas.

The IT department of Bryan, Texas, has outfitted the Brazos Valley Child Abduction Response Team (BVCART) with a leads tracking system that’s more potent, along with computer support, interoperable radio communication and extensive GIS mapping capabilities. So if an Amber Alert is issued in the seven-county area, the team has an array of technology and tech experts to rely upon when searching for the kidnapped child.

Gustavo Roman, IT director for Bryan, said the partnership between the BVCART and his staff began a few years ago, when College Station Police Department Lt. Charles Fleeger approached him about technology that could help the BVCART log calls and leads from tipsters. Fleeger and Roman talked about an older Access database that already was being used for the task, but required manual data entry.

Roman and his staff decided they could do better by leveraging the city’s Laserfiche document imaging system to give the group real-time access to the leads that call-takers received. The Bryan IT department modified the technology at no cost to the city, creating a digital solution that tracks all information during an abduction case.

Now call-takers input leads directly into a database that is accessible in the field in real time via the Web. The information can then be searched remotely by all members of the BVCART, so they can corroborate tips with any existing leads.

“This is one of those projects that we hope we never have to implement on a really bad case,” Roman said, adding that the BVCART does abduction exercises twice a year. “But it’s very comforting to know that if we do have to use it, we’re going to have an effect on getting the kid back safely.”

IT staff in Bryan aren’t just providing technology to the BVCART. Roman and various members of his staff are also members of the abduction response team.

The Amber Alert Network of Brazos Valley — a cooperative effort between area law enforcement agencies, emergency management personnel and local media — began the process of establishing the BVCART in 2008. The team, which was certified by the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2011, comprises 20 participating agencies throughout central Texas.

Fleeger is the chairman and the police department representative of the local Amber Alert network.

It was during that certification process that Fleeger felt the BVCART needed a stronger method of communicating. Fleeger explained that because not every city and county has the same resources, a call center located in one area was needed, but the data had to be accessible by everyone out in the field.

Brian Heaton  | 

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.