Autism Outreach

Autism Outreach

I would like to introduce you to a new program that the Gorham Police Department is initiating to assist those in our community who may have special needs.  This program came to be after officers of the Gorham Police Department attended a training and saw the need to be proactive.

One of our greatest concerns is when the dispatch center receives a call involving a missing child. This concern increases when the child involved has autism and/or other disabilities.  In the case of a missing child, it is always essential that we respond quickly. Because an autistic child may have a tendency to gravitate toward water and/or may not have an accurate sense of danger, it is even more critical that responding officers locate the individual as quickly as possible.

With that in mind, the more focused our search can be, the greater our chances are of being successful. Having specific information such as where the individual may have gone previously or where there are pools or other bodies of water, etc. would be of tremendous value to us.

Once locating the child it is important to have information that can assist us in communicating with the child.  Is there a word “trigger” that would help us communicate with the individual? If the individual is not verbal, what method of communication can be used? Is the individual scared of uniforms, hats, emergency lights, etc.?

Through the training that our officers attended and collaboration with the Gorham School Department, we have drafted a form to collect specific information that could be helpful in the event that we had to locate, assist, or communicate with an individual that may have special needs.

The intent of the program is to offer a voluntary registration process whereby an individual or an individual’s parent, legal guardian, or legally chosen designee can provide as much specific information and description as they choose. We also have the ability to include a picture if the individual so desires. This information will be entered into our computer system and attached to the individual’s name as well as the street address of their residence. The information is kept confidential and will only be available to Gorham’s police officers and public safety dispatchers. In the event that a call is received regarding a registered individual, or from the residence of a registered person, the information provided will immediately be brought to the attention of the responding officers.

Using the laptop computers in the patrol vehicles, the information including a picture, if supplied, will be readily available to the officer. The computer system will also provide an aerial photograph of the individual’s neighborhood. By using the map, the on-duty supervisor will have the ability to coordinate a more in-depth search, if necessary.

Obviously, it would be nice if we never had to use any of this information. However, in the event that we do, I am in hopes that our preparation will provide us with the greatest opportunity to be successful in keeping our citizens safe.

If you would like to see a live demonstration of how the information is stored and used, or if you have any ideas, concerns, or comments please feel free to contact me, Deputy Chief Michael Nault at 222-1667 or by email.

Download the Emergency Information Release Form here.