Gloucester Township Police Department dedicates walkway to World Autism Awareness Day

GLOUCESTER TWP., New Jersey (WPVI) -- The Gloucester Township Police Department is recognizing World Autism Awareness Day with a new walkway.

They unveiled the colorful new walk that reads "Support Neurodiversity" just outside their department.

The department also unveiled new seatbelt covers that identify a person with autism to alert police officers during traffic stops and accidents.

"It says on there that this person may have autism, and they may not respond, they may be unaware of danger, and they may resist help," said David Harkins, chief of police for the Gloucester Township Police Department. "It immediately tells the officer how to handle the situation."

In 2015, the police department also created a registry for individuals with autism or other disabilities.

"This lets them know things like if they're running away, or they're missing that the sirens may scare them off," Harkins said. "It tells us a little bit about maybe how we should approach them and what works for them."

Officers use that information to mitigate the situation with quick access to critical information about a person.

Harkins says this helps officers when time and communication are critical and adds a human connection.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.