Police program in Wharton inspired by city council member and son

WHARTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Wharton City Council member and his son sparked a new police program that hits close to home.

Terry Freese's son, Joel, is autistic and can't verbally communicate. It hasn't always been easy.

"One day we left a key in the lock, he turned it and went out, and friends found him walking down the busiest street in Wharton," Freese recalled.

Freese is a city council member. Recently, he heard of a "take me home" program developed by Pensacola Police in Florida.

He contacted Wharton police, who quickly started its own version.

"As a father and a parent, it makes you feel a little better because you're at the mercy of other people when you have a kid that cannot communicate," Freese said.

To sign up for the program, all you have to do is fill out a form and provide a photo.

The documents are at the police station, but soon they'll be online.

Since its launch last week, more than 100 people have grabbed applications.

The department says neighboring agencies have called asking about the program.

Here's how it'll work: A secure database will be compiled. If officer's encounter someone who can't verbally communicate, they can use the database to learn more about the person.

It also helps when someone goes missing.

"We understand some people are unable to verbally communicate, and we'll be able to identify them by the information on the form," Wharton Police Officer Melissa Huggins said.

The program is for those with autism, down syndrome, developmental disabilities, dementia, or Alzheimer's.

To learn more, you can contact Huggins.

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