New York Sen. Chuck Schumer wants the Justice Department to fund a program for tracking devices for autistic children. The proposal comes a month after an autistic child went missing and has yet to be found.
"I am asking the Department of Justice to fund devices for children identified as high risk runners," New York Sen. Schumer said, according to WABC-TV.
Schumer is joined by parents and area educators in the effort to make GPS tracking devices available to parents with autistic children.
The New York Post reports that Schumer stated, “The sights and sounds of NYC and other busy places can be overstimulating and distracting for children and teens with autism, often leading to wandering as a way to escape.”
The Justice Department already funds devices for Alzheimer's patients, costing about $100. The GPS tracking service ranges from $5 to $50 a month. It would be a voluntary program, overseen by police departments.
"The use of these devices reduces the amount of time to locate a child by 95 percent. That's amazing," Schumer said.
The proposal follows the early October disappearance of 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, who is diagnosed with autism. He disappeared from his Long Island City school and is still missing.
Shortly after Oquendo’s disappearance, one parent immediately began the quest for a tracking device for her autistic child.
"One of the first things I did was go online and try to find a tracking device I could use for my son. My son is 6 years old and he is diagnosed with autism," Kpana Kpoto said.
Four years ago, state investigators became convinced that a New York Labor Department official was stepping out when he was supposed to be working, so they put a GPS tracking device in the wheel well of his car and tracked him for a month.
After being terminated from his job for 11 misconduct charges, Michael Cunningham is moving closer to getting his job back as the state’s high court ruled the Inspector General’s Office overstepped its boundaries by tracking Cunningham’s movements at night, weekends and on vacation.
“Where an employer conducts a GPS search without making a reasonable effort to avoid tracking an employee outside of business hours, the search as a whole must be considered unreasonable,” wrote Court of Appeals Judge Robert Smith regarding the case.
The Court of Appeals did say that the government can use GPS devices to track employees, but only during work hours, the New York Daily News reported.
“Before this decision, the government was claiming the authority to use GPS devices 24-7,” said New York Civil Liberties Union senior attorney, Corey Stoughton. “The government cannot pry into the private and personal lives of its employees.”
He added: "This very clearly establishes the principle that the government cannot engage in GPS surveillance of public employees unless they are confident they can limit it to times the employee is on the clock.”
The GPS device revealed, among other things, that Cunningham was visiting his secretary’s apartment when they were both supposed to be at work. When Cunningham, a 28-year veteran of the department, was let go, he was making $115,000 annually.