Life-saving stickers: Police see high demand for special needs alert program

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HAZELWOOD, Mo. - More police departments in the St. Louis-area are giving away stickers; the kind of stickers that some say could help save lives.

“We’ve already had over 20 applications from residents. So, it’s exciting,” said Heather Berding, Hazelwood Crime Victims Advocate.

Berding’s department introduced a Special Needs Alert Program in early January.

The program includes stickers that residents can place in their homes to denote that a resident has a special need or medical issue. The information on the stickers would help responding officers interact with the residents who might have trouble communicating.

“An example, a victim stating that her son is 17-years-old and is autistic, and he may run from police. But he’s not violent. And so that’s some information that we can provide to our dispatchers, and in turn, they can provide to our first responders when they respond to that address,” Berding said.

Hazelwood provides stickers that indicate someone might have autism or special needs, is deaf, has Alzheimer’s or dementia, is diabetic, or is disabled.

Berding said Hazelwood learned of the idea from the neighboring Florissant Police Department.

The St. Louis County, St. Charles County, and the O’Fallon, Missouri police departments also provide the stickers free of charge to residents. Departments in cities across the nation have adopted similar programs.

In St. Louis County, the most requested stickers are for dementia and autism.

Hazelwood Police Department Sgt. Shane Parrish said even though officers respond to help, the optics could be overwhelming for someone with a special need.

“The lights, the sirens – they could be very intimidating. The officer coming out with the uniform. That could be intimidating,” he said. “As officers are responding, if they know that that person has that disability, then they can run without the lights, without the sirens.”

"Residents interested in stickers can contact their local police department. Residents are not required to place the stickers in plain sight, as their information is entered into a database once the stickers are requested and an application is completed," said Berding.

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