MAYS LANDING- The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office has launched the Atlantic County Special Needs Registry which will serve as a joint collaboration between the Atlantic County Prosecutors Office and all other law enforcement agencies in Atlantic County, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner announced on Friday.

The goal of the Atlantic County Special Needs Registry is to ensure that all Atlantic County residents who have Special Needs are able to receive the assistance and support they require in a time of emergency or during interaction with law enforcement, fire or EMS personnel.

“Time is of the essence when law enforcement officers are dealing with issues involving a person with special needs.  We are confident this tool will assist us in our efforts to serve those in need,” Tyner said in a release.

The registry is offered at no-cost to registrants. The information collected for the registry is private and will only be used and stored by law enforcement and first responders during times of crisis. 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 special needs.

“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. 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,” ACPO Victim Witness Coordinator Raymond Royster said.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office introduced the first county special needs registry in the state of New Jersey in 2016, with Stafford Township Police Department in Ocean County launching a registry in 2017.

“The Monmouth County Special Needs Registry 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 J. Gramiccioni said.

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.

Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler said he supports the registry.

“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. 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. 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,” Scheffler said.

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Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.