SOUTH BRUNSWICK – The South Brunswick Police Department created a new service to provide officers with rapid information in the event a person with special needs goes missing.
The voluntary South Brunswick Special Needs Registry is open to all community members with special needs who reside, attend school or are employed in the township.
An individual with special needs may include someone with any physical or mental impairment that subsequently limits one or more major life activities. This may include, but is not limited to, people with Alzheimer’s disease, autism, Down syndrome, dementia or any other compromising condition, according to information supplied by the department.
The information requested includes the registrant’s personal identifiers such as his/her name, address, height, weight, emergency contact information, some details about their special needs and a recent photo. The registrant can also elect to provide additional information about themselves such as medical conditions, places frequented, method of communication, calming methods and triggering conditions.
All information provided on the registry will remain strictly confidential and will only be utilized by first responders during times of emergencies.
“In the past year the department has handled 68 missing person cases, with nearly a third involving special needs persons. Time is of the essence in these cases and this program will enhance our ability to respond,” Police Chief Raymond Hayducka said in the statement.
Residents can register by visiting www.sbtnj.net and completing the Special Needs Registry form. The completed form and photograph can then be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or delivered/mailed to the South Brunswick Police Department, 540 Ridge Road, Monmouth Junction, section of South Brunswick.
Once a resident submits the form, the information will be readily available to officers on the computers in their patrol cars as well as in dispatch. When a call is received from an address, police officers and dispatchers will have access to the information about the special needs person living at that address. The officers on patrol can then immediately the person’s photograph and vital information, according to the department.
South Brunswick police will also provide families and residents with special needs decals to affix to their homes and vehicles to indicate they are in the registry. The presence of a decal on a vehicle will alert the police officer to the possible presence of a special needs registrant in the vehicle or in the home upon arriving at a scene. The use of the decal is completely voluntarily and not a requirement of the registry, according to officials.
“Individuals with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to come in contact with law enforcement then the general public. Individuals who suffer from conditions such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease often exhibit a diminished sense of fear causing them to engage in high risk behavior such as seeking water or active roadways. Extended missing person cases place special needs people at risk of exposure to weather and environmental hazards. This program provides first responders with another tool to protect our special needs community,” Hayducka said.