Program helps Plum police respond to calls from special-needs families

| Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Plum police Chief Jeffrey Armstrong wants his officers to be prepared for any situation.

For that reason, Armstrong values any resources officers can get when responding to calls for service.

“You can never have too much information,” Armstrong said. “Any information that can assist (officers) in how to react and respond is beneficial.”

Armstrong is pleased that the Allegheny District Attorney's Office on April 30 announced a series of programs and grants available for parents of autistic children or caregivers of people suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia.

Some of the materials in packets distributed to local police departments, including Plum, are stickers for cars and homes that indicate a special-needs individual is in a car or in a home. The stickers will give police a heads-up when they conduct a traffic stop or respond to a home for a call for service in Plum, Armstrong said.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Swan said the impetus behind the campaign was an overall lack of awareness when it came to law enforcement interaction with people suffering from autism.

“As we looked around the country, we saw stories of more and more actions misinterpreted, sometimes with unfortunate results,” Swan said.

In response, his office prepared a 20-minute DVD distributed to most of the 130 cities, towns and municipalities making up Allegheny County and shown to officers during roll call.

As part of the program, parents can apply for tracking devices for their children and door alarms for those prone to wandering.

Armstrong said the packet also includes a premises alert request form that a resident fills out with information about a special-needs individual in the home. The form would be given to the Allegheny County 911 center to alert Plum police about the special circumstance if officers are called to respond to an incident at the home.

Armstrong said Plum's officers haven't had any specific calls where an individual with special needs became an issue.

“It is valuable information,” Armstrong said.

For more information about the programs and grants, contact the district attorney's office at 412-350-4400.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or

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