A win for inclusivity

SCPD and Autism Communities announce new partnership


Steven Niciforo plays the bass in the band Kool Spektrum, a group of fellow musicians that play classic rock covers, who, like Niciforo, are also on the autism spectrum. The band often plays at Rock City Dogs, which is a mere two blocks away from where he stands in his new apartment at North District Lofts, in Bay shore.

“We really pack the place out,” Niciforo  added, while conversing with Suffolk County Police Department officers in the comfort of his own apartment.

The 33-year-old just moved out of his parents’ house for the first time, and is the newest Autism Communities resident in the building. Autism Communities is an organization that partners with developers such as Greenview Properties to facilitate sustainable housing opportunities for neurodiverse individuals.

The SCPD received a tour of his apartment as part of a new joint initiative between Autism Communities and the Suffolk County Police Department: the Friend Responders campaign. The campaign will provide opportunities for first responders to meet with neurodiverse individuals who are living independently in a casual setting. These interactions are aimed to prevent potential misinterpretations of both resident behavior by police officers, as well as officer actions by a resident, in the event of a 911 response.

In a press conference at North District Lofts on June 24, Suffolk County acting police commissioner Robert Waring joined Doreen Jaggs of Autism Communities, members of the Autism Communities team, and current Autism Communities residents to announce the  partnership.

“We have assigned our Community Relations Bureau Sgt. Joe Steigele to serve as the department liaison with Autism Communities. When a resident of the program moves into a new department, Sgt. Steigele will facilitate a meet-and-greet with the local police officers and new residents,” explained Waring. “We hope this will be the start of a growing friendship, and our officers continue to make check-ins throughout the year. Our hope is that no matter the emergency, our officers will be recognized as a friendly face.”

Additionally, all Autism Communities residents will be guided to create a Smart 911 profile. Smart 911 is a program available to all Suffolk County residents that allows you to input additional information 911 call-takers would need to assist them in the case of an emergency. If a resident does call 911, information will automatically come up on the call-taker’s screen that will aid in their response. For example, if a caller is sensitive to flashing lights, sirens, or loud voices, responders can be instructed to modify their response.

Niciforo spoke out about the benefits of independent living, and how Autism Communities and the Friend Responders campaign has personally impacted him.

“It is so important that the differently abled feel included and feel like we are part of the community, and in turn, help the community recognize, support, and accept us,” said Niciforo. “Living on my own is a new challenge, but knowing that I can call someone in the event of an emergency and see a friendly face truly creates a level of support and confidence to make me feel secure in my new living environment.”

At the conclusion of the press conference, Niciforo warmly welcomed attendees into his apartment for a tour. While Niciforo only moved in on June 1, his apartment already feels like a home, with an abundance of his New York Islanders merch decorating the space. As SCPD officers got to know Niciforo and bond over mutual interests, it became clear that the Friend Responders campaign was aptly named, and will be a success.


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