New car tag aims to save lives and alert police

    Alton police have introduced a car tag that can be placed on a vehicle or home window to let officers know the person they are interacting with may have a physical or mental disability. (Source CBS 4 News.)

    Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest impact, and that's the hope of police officers in Alton.

    A small sticker with huge value is becoming a beacon of hope for Rio Grande Valley residents.

    "It's going to save lives, I have no doubt whatsoever," said Veronica Garza, a mother of three autistic daughters.

    Garza was pulled over by a police officer for speeding when one of her girls was having a breakdown last year.

    "He started to tell me to get out of the car, but I didn't want to leave my girls unattended knowing something can happen if they get out of the car," Garza said as she recalled the moment.

    But miscommunication like that won't happened again to Garza because of a new safety stickers purchased by Alton Police.

    The stickers that can be placed on your vehicle or home window will let officers know if the person they are interacting with may have a physical or mental disability.

    "They are so our officers don't mistake any of those things for non compliance or intoxication," said Alton Chief of Police Jonathan B. Flores.

    For example, if a deaf person is inside a car and are pulled over but is not responding to verbal commands, the sticker will let the officer know why.

    "This is not a substitute for training, our officers do undergo training for autism, they undergo DWI training where they're taught to see the indicators between someone diabetic vs. intoxicated,"said Chief Flores, "This is an added tool."

    Alton police officers were trained this summer on how to interact with citizens with different illnesses and disabilities, something Garza said is life changing.

    "It's greatly appreciated, because it's a difference we want to see in our community, it's a difference we want to see worldly," Garza said.

    Once someone gets a safety sticker, which must be verified with proof of the illness, the data is entered into dispatch so officers are aware of the person's medical condition before arriving to a call.

    "This is just an added tool to keep them safe and foster a positive interaction between our officers and the community we serve," Flores said.

    The safety stickers idea came from the Bexar County Sheriff's Department and Chief Flores hopes other Valley law enforcement departments will continue the initiative.

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