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Atlantic County registry could aid interactions between law enforcement, special needs people

A new registry will allow those with special needs to register in case of an emergency or interaction with law enforcement, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner announced Friday.
The Atlantic County Special Needs Registry aims to make sure those with specials needs receive the necessary assistance and give officers a heads up when dealing with someone who may be having an issue that is causing certain behavior.
“Many of these individuals may look typical but, under stress, their behavior could mimic other issues such as mental illness, drug use or criminal behavior,” said Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler, whose office is participating. “Having a registry in place will allow officers to recognize and understand these specific Individuals, their triggers and contact information. This will create a safer and healthier environment for police and community interactions,”
“Time is of the essence when law enforcement officers are dealing with issues involving a person with special needs,” Tyner said. “We are confident this tool will assist us in our efforts to serve those in need.”
The registry is a collaboration between the Prosecutor’s Office and all law enforcement agencies in the county.
“I am thrilled to support the Special Needs Registry that Prosecutor Tyner is implementing,” Scheffler said. “As a board member for FACES 4 Autism, I thoroughly understand the challenges that could arise for individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities and their interaction with law enforcement.”
Registration is free.
The information will be shared only by law enforcement and first-responders during times of crisis, Tyner said.
Registrants will have the opportunity to sign up and provide key information about themselves or loved ones so that law enforcement and first-responders will be more equipped to address any specific needs an individual has.
Monmouth County was the first in the state to have such a registry, beginning in 2016.
It “has helped to build bridges between our citizens with special needs and our law enforcement agencies, enhancing our ability to protect and serve our most vulnerable residents,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said. “We congratulate the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office for extending its outreach to build these same bridges and wish them much success.”
Stafford Township Police Department in Ocean County launched a special needs registry in 2017.
“The Atlantic County Special Needs Registry is a wonderful and extremely useful tool that will allow citizens of Atlantic County and others whom visit our county to have direct communication with law enforcement and other first-responders in times of need,” said Raymond Royster, who heads the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Unit. “Many people with developmental disabilities, mental health disorders and other impairments appear atypical which can sometimes cause an issue when they encounter law enforcement.
“This registry will provide citizens with special needs an opportunity to inform law enforcement about their condition,” he added. “The focus of the Atlantic County Special Needs Registry is to give law enforcement the tools to understand who they are encountering and what their needs are.”
Another registry is offered through the state of NJ Office of Emergency Management.
“Register Ready – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters” allows New Jersey residents with disabilities or access and functional needs and their families, friends, caregivers and associates an opportunity to provide information to emergency response agencies so emergency responders can better plan to serve them in a disaster or other emergency.

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