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Search-and-rescue group using cutting-edge imaging software in search for missing Port Clinton teen

Posted at 1:55 PM, Jan 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 11:58:51-05

PORT CLINTON, Ohio — A Texas-based search-and-rescue group is helping in the search for missing Port Clinton teenager Harley Dilly with cutting-edge color imaging software.

On Monday, the Ohio State Highway Patrol launched a helicopter to search for the missing 14-year-old from the air. According to Texas EquuSearch, searchers are taking photos of the areas where the missing person may be.

“The challenge then becomes, how to sift through thousands of pictures, to locate the specified target,” the non-profit group stated.

That’s where the brand new "Loc8" imaging software comes in.

“Loc8 can scan thousands of images, much faster than is humanly possible, to locate the few pixels that might represent a missing person,” a Texas EquuSearch representative said.

Loc8 systematically scans digital images and identifies potential targets based on user-defined color palettes. A user then confirms the potential target, and Loc8 generates a map and aerial view of the target’s location.

The system has been proven successful on several other Texas EquuSearch operations so far, the group said. Studies have shown that humans are only capable of spotting a target 30 percent of the time when reviewing digital images.

Sources tell 5 On Your Side Investigators that Monday's search by air focused on a marshy area south of state Route 2 and a nearby landfill, as well as Dilly's neighborhood.

In addition to the new aerial search, Port Clinton police announced Monday that the reward for information leading to the safe return of Harley has risen to over $17,500.

Harley disappeared more than two weeks ago, and since then, police and rescue teams have searched more than 150 acres of land around Port Clinton.

As the search continues for the teenager, counselors will be on hand Monday to help students and staff cope with his disappearance.

Monday marked the first day back in school for Port Clinton students since Dilly was reported missing by his parents during Winter Break.

"We just want Harley home," said Port Clinton Superintendent of Schools Pat Adkins. "Right now we're not even thinking about what happened, we just want to get Harley back home. We just want to see him back in school and back in our community."

Adkins said all high school teachers were given talking points to discuss with students Monday morning in an attempt to clear up rumors and speculation surrounding the high school freshman's disappearance.

"The police department is working hard on finding Harley," said Adkins. "The fire department is working hard on finding Harley and we believe Harley is alive and will return to Port Clinton High School."

The Port Clinton School District confirmed to News 5 that staff and two Port Clinton firefighters searched all district buildings for evidence on Dec. 22.

Adkins would not say whether or not Dilly was in school on Thursday, December 19. Instead, he repeated what police have said, that investigators believe Dilly was seen on surveillance video just after 6am on Friday, December 20 heading to school.

"There’s no words for any of this,” Harley’s mother Heather Dilly said to News 5 Friday during an emotional interview. “I would never want anybody to go through this. I mean, somebody had to have seen something."

Since his disappearance, thousands of flyers have been distributed across the state and country. His case has been featured on "Good Morning America" and "LIVE PD."

Port Clinton police are also asking the public to come forward with any surveillance video from Thursday, Dec. 19 between 3 p.m. and midnight, as well as any video from Friday, Dec. 20.


A complete timeline of every day and event since Harley Dilly's disappearance

Mother of Harley Dilly pleads for his safe return

Port Clinton police request surveillance footage from residents to help find Harley Dilly