Train-riding autistic teen missing

Jeffrey Cooper

UPDATE, 6 p.m. He was found, safe and sound, at Copley station.

Transit Police report officers are once again looking for Jeffrey Cooper, a tall, skinny and autistic teen from East Boston who loves riding the subway.

He was last seen yesterday.



Free tagging: 



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again! This kid needs a GPS bracelet or a cell phone with it enabled. Sure it may not be accurate underground but it would give some sense of where he's at.

Already covered

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A time or two ago, there was a discussion of this. Lo-jack's people tracking system was donated to the family and is in use.


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why is he missing again? Unless he's not wearing it or its shut off.


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Lo-jack requires you to be in proximity to the person to get a bearing on direction and distance. This is one advantage a cellphone/GPS-based system with the ability to connect to a cellphone service would have over the Lo-jack solution. A pure GPS system would need clear view of the sky though which means he'd have to wear it as a hat and not be underground on a subway car.

So, each system has its advantages and disadvantages. If the Lo-jack receivers aren't near him, then he would still be lost to them. There can also be difficulties in getting the radio signals to penetrate some forms of concrete and steel meaning places in the MBTA system might add additional signal hampering.


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what you're saying is.. even he has it. its complete useless since he's underground.

Smaht. real smaht.

Not completely

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It's not black or white. Very grey. It's all about distance (signal strength) and direction (radio echoes). It should be pretty good at getting close to him. And in the MBTA system there's going to be few places he'll be if they do get a signal and direction (if it says he's nearby in the direction of a tunnel, he's probably on the next arriving train even if the signal is weak and the train is just pulling up).

But they can't just turn it on at home and know where he is. And they can't have one receiver in every single train station and ask everyone to go check the receiver to figure out who might see his signal. And a negative (not finding a signal) can possibly be a false negative which would be more likely than a false just because you didn't see a signal doesn't mean he isn't nearby.

So, it's useful, but not perfect...but nothing is.

then it's

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not the right tool for the job.

Pretty Simple.

Not arguing with you but again right tool for the right job is always key. I think a GPS/Cell would work better.. (considering i just found out that Google tracks me with a neat map, and yes even if I am underground!)

Biggest problem is cost then

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If you have a gps/cellphone combo that reports via cell tower, then it has to have a data subscription to the cell service to use those channels. That means a minimum monthly fee. It also means a bigger battery or shorter lifespan.

Sending out a radio pulse that Lo-jack can find is very low power. A small battery can do it for days. Communicating with multiple cell towers (how it would find your location underground) and sending back data costs more power. When someone is lost, longevity of the finding system is more important than more/better information. Otherwise, once it dies, they're going to stay lost.

So, a bigger more expensive battery along with a monthly subscription service to the cell phone system costs a lot more in the long run than a Lo-jack beeping radio signal.


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However, if it doesn't serve a purpose.. LoJack that is... its not worth it and time to spend more $ on something that does.

A cell phone would also give the kid a way to call someone (or be called too)

I want to be sympathetic in this situation but if the tool isnt correct for the job, and he keeps getting lost, its not working. First time it was cute, second time.... um ok. This time.. yeah someone needs to keep tabs on this kid better. Sorry sympathy only happens oh so much before this becomes a WTH situation.

A little perspective

My son has autism and has wore one of these devices for about five years now. He is also a wanderer, like Jeffery and many other individuals on the spectrum.

I am not going to address your "someone needs to keep tabs on this kid better" statement, except to say that you would need to spend some time caring for an individual with autism to understand why you miss the mark with it.

I do want to say that one benefit of the Lojack system's use of radio signals is that they can still be read when the device is underwater, which a GPS cannot be. This is important because a lot of individuals with autism are attracted to water, and the rate of drawing for children with autism is higher than children without.

Also battery life plays a big part. My son's battery is changed once a month. Each time the battery is changed, the device is removed then reattached with a new strap. Once a month is a big to do for my son, and I do not think he would put up with it more often. So a device with a shorter battery life, like a gps device, would not work for him or many kids like him.

As for Jeffery just carrying a regular cell phone, I do not know him personally so cannot say if he would or not, but I could not get my son to hold on to a cell for more than five minutes (and he does not have the skills and know-how to use one anyway). Heck, my friend's son lost 3 cell phones already this year, and he does not have autism. So a typical cell phone would not work for him either or many kids like him.

There are not many other products out there that serve a similar purpose as the Lojack device - give it a search and see. So it might not be the absolute best thing that someone could every think of, but it really is the best that is available right now.

Other products

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Disclaimer: I am NOT equating a lost dog to a missing autistic person on any level except to the commonality of wanting to know if anyone or anything has left "home" and in what direction and distance.

My brother has a dog that is quite skilled at getting out of his yard if it's not monitored. It's happened twice and it's considered a dangerous breed which makes a real problem if he doesn't find it first. I thought I'd try to help by buying him a tracking system that the dog would wear that would at a minimum alert him if the dog gets outside of a particular radius and then give him an idea of the direction and distance the dog had gotten when he went to chase it.

I was astounded by the total lack of options regardless of what you wanted to track. There are about 3 real products out there and none of them are good for anything but line of sight tracking via a long-range Bluetooth transmitter. The only other option was a cell phone/GPS receiver type that had horrible battery life (you'd have to plug it in every time the person/pet to be tracked was at home) and required a huge monthly service fee to the tracking company who would then pay part of your fee to the cell phone company. The technology for some of these things exists, but not in a way that is necessarily useful by the current technology models we use today (for-fee network access, etc.).

He already does have a

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He already does have a bracelet on that they can use to track him. It's basically a Lojack for humans.

Get him his own charlie card?

He's getting into the system somehow. If he had a charlie card and was shown how to use it, could they track that card whenever he went missing?

A fresh perspective needed

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We all know at this point he loves to ride the subway and he always seems to be found on or near a subway. But, if he has been missing since yesterday, and he has been missing for multiple days in the past, where does he go when the subway is closed? This isnt NYC he cant be on it all night so it seems logical there are also places he likes to commonly hang out at.

Isn't he an adult now? Does

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Isn't he an adult now? Does he have to be found if he doesn't want to be, or, is he somehow declared incompetent/dependent on others? If his parents are incapable of supervising him properly, why isn't he sent to live elsewhere? Who pays for the search and following ambulance response? I have so many questions as to why this is allowed to happen year after year.


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He is a "teen" not an adult. As the post states.

Aside from that:

"The study on autistic individuals and why they elope is funded by grants for Autism Speaks and it is the first study ever on the reasons why autistic people tend to leave places of safety and wander off on their own. Many have suggested that because autistic people are often watched and looked over incessantly, a chance to elope and move about is a normal and natural exercise in independence natural to all people."

You have so many questions? Do some research. There is a lot of information to help you along. I don't think anyone is allowing anything. The young man, because of his autism, likes to get away, from time to time, and ride the subway. So much is still unknown about Autism and why folks with the disorder act they way they do. I would suggest, however, that judging the parents to bad in supervising him, without knowing anything about them, is so not cool.

But he is still over 18

That would make him a legal adult.

HOWEVER, there are some situations where a person is not and will not be able to be mentally competent and responsible for their own decisions, despite their age. That's where legal guardianship comes in (I'll leave the details of that to people who work with people like him on a professional basis).

Put simply: people who are beyond legal childhood who cannot and will not be able to manage their own affairs are cared for by others with formal legal authority.

I am assuming that this young man falls into that category.

PS I'd be a little wary of anything out of Autism Speaks - they have been very nasty to the community of people living with Autism who are functional enough to speak for themselves (and would like to be represented on their advisory boards since they know what living with Autism is like). Best to click through to the original research:

Doesn't matter his age

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A missing persons report can be filed for anyone if there's reason to believe they might be in trouble. We don't know his entire medical history. It's possible he needs meds for things which he may not be getting if he's away from home. That's enough to file a report.

The only question that might change since he is an adult is if he chose to leave voluntarily and is capable of making his own decisions, then if they find him and he's okay, they might not be allowed to say where he is or bring him back forcibly.

"I would suggest, however,

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"I would suggest, however, that judging the parents to bad in supervising him, without knowing anything about them, is so not cool."


Too bad

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Too bad he wan't on the Blue Line as I was the other day when that bogus bomb scare thing was happening. It would have cured him of his "love" of the T for good.


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Just give him a job with the T. Problem solved.

Not a bad idea.

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If it is feasable to give him something to do every day near and around what he obviously loves, it might make it easier to supervise him and make him less likely to bolt.

And I really can't get myself irritated about these bulletins. Really, if the biggest irritation we get these days is him bolting, then our city's in good shape.

I *just* saw him waiting for a train at Arlington, & I +

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Called the transit police. They got there seconds after he got on a Heath Street train and it pulled away. They're trying to meet him at Copley now.

I work with ASD kids for a living and tried to get to him before he boarded. I'm kicking myself for not getting to him in time.
Anyway, thanks to Adam for posting. Wouldn't have known about it otherwise.

And this is why...

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...It's a good idea for Adam to post to UHub every time this kid goes a wandering! Glad for the happy ending!