Margate police join Autism outreach program
South Florida Sun Sentinel - 7/23/2019
Jul. 23--The Margate Police Department has rolled out a new outreach effort to better connect with its autism community.
Called Project Autism, the program creates a database of residents living with autism so that police officers can better interact with them.
Margate becomes at least the second police agency in Broward to use the awareness program.
It officially launched Tuesday with an event at Rising Tide Car Wash, 2970 N. State Road 7. The car wash has made a local and national name for itself by providing jobs to people with autism.
The company was launched in 2013 in Parkland by John D'Eri who was inspired by his son, Andrew, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 1/2 years old. The car wash, which has been featured on NBC's "Today" show earlier this year as well as a Starbucks video and the Oprah Winfrey Network, employs more than 75 people.
Margate's police database will be kept confidential and only shared with officers responding to an incident involving someone with autism. The database allows first responders to better speak to someone with autism, know their trigger points and how to best react. People with the developmental disorder may have a range of communication and social challenges including repetitive behaviors.
People who sign up for the database will be given a laminated card and a sticker to identify their household as a resident with autism. The program is voluntary to sign up.
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"Our community is made of up many unique and special individuals," said Margate police chief Jonathan Shaw at Tuesday's event. "We hope that our Project Autism will allow our officers to better serve our families' special needs with the utmost care and compassion and we are proud to offer this program to our residents."
As part of the kick off, the department held a "Touch a Truck" event at Coral Gate Park just east of the car wash. The idea was for people with autism to meet officers while also getting an up close look at police vehicles, SWAT trucks and fire trucks.
The Margate initiative follows Fort Lauderdale police which launched its own autism outreach program. In April, as part of Autism Awareness Month, the department introduced FLPD Cares which also involves a database of the city's residents with autism.
For more information on the Margate program, call the department's Community Relations Unit at (954) 972-7111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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