As the Elgin Police Department’s composite sketch artist, officer Roberto Soberano is accustomed to putting his creative skills to work when he’s on the job.
But when a commanding officer asked him to design a special uniform patch for officers to wear in April for Autism Awareness Month, he found his inspiration at home.
Soberano’s son, Benjamin, is on the autism spectrum, and the 10-year-old boy’s “determination and hard work humbles me daily,” the officer said.
“I was honored to be able to show our community that we support autism and neurodiversity, through my artwork,” Soberano said in a Facebook post about the patch. “I can genuinely say that I am proud to be part of a police department that truly seeks to improve and understand the autism community.”
Soberano, a patrol officer who’s also active in the local community of families with special needs members, told us this week that he intentionally kept the puzzle piece imagery often associated with autism from his patch, noting its historical beginnings as a symbol that implied something tragic about the condition.
Instead, his patch prominently features two infinity symbols — one featuring the words “Autism Acceptance” and two hands clasping, and the other in rainbow colors to illustrate neurodiversity.
“For the autism community, for a good portion of it at least, the infinity symbol is it,” he said.
Beyond the patch
For Soberano and his colleagues in the Elgin PD, the commitment to residents with autism and special needs goes beyond wearing a patch. Later this month, for example, the department will host its second annual Heroes Unite Autism Acceptance event in front of the police department.
The event, set for 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 23, will connect residents with educational resources and organizations that can help, and it will feature activities such as a bounce house and Touch-A-Truck.
But the highlight for many is the traffic stop simulator, which will give people with autism a chance to experience being “pulled over.” Police say the experience may help young people with autism feel more comfortable driving and put them at ease if they get pulled over in real life.
The department also is creating a voluntary database of residents with special needs to alert officers of any special care they should take if called to a situation involving that person. And residents can get stickers to place outside their homes or on their vehicles to make officers aware a special needs person may be inside.
Soberano said he’s proud to work for a department that reaches out to the special needs community. But more importantly, knowing the department’s commitment puts him at ease as a dad.
“I’m doing this for my son, and I’m doing this for every other person out there that may have future contact with the police,” he told us. “It gives me peace of mind, because I’m not always going to be with my son. He’s going to be by himself at some point, but I know at least in Elgin, he’s going to be OK. And my goal is to make this more a standard for across the board nationwide.”
Tracking the carjacking
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and two suburban lawmakers are taking aim at carjackers with new legislation that would require automobile manufacturers to have 24/7 hotlines police could call to get carjacked vehicles tracked via built-in GPS systems.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on Wednesday in Springfield describes legislation to track car jackers with a database set up by automakers that allow for law enforcement to find cars through GPS technology.
– Associated press
Dart wants automobile companies to provide real-time tracking, without police having to get a search warrant, as long as the vehicle owner consents.
At a news conference Wednesday, Dart criticized what he called the “excuses” automobile-industry representatives have given him for not providing the information voluntarily.
Joining Dart in touting the legislation Wednesday were state Rep. Marty Moylan of Des Plaines and Sen. Michael Hastings of Frankfort.
If the legislation is approved as proposed, it would apply only in counties with 3 million or more residents — meaning, just Cook County.
Love (scams) in the air
Spring is the season of love … scams. At least that’s what authorities in Lake County are saying in a new warning this week about a rise in romance scams involving cryptocurrency.
According to the Lake County sheriff’s office, the ripoffs begin on dating and social media apps, and involve scammers attempting to “romance” victims into believing they are in a legitimate relationship.
After victims are lured in, the scammer persuades them to purchase cryptocurrencies from legitimate exchanges, such as Coinbase or Binance. From there, the scammer entices the victim to believe they can make a profit by trading those legitimately bought cryptocurrencies to a different cryptocurrency exchange — which in reality will direct the funding to the scammer.
Sheriff’s police say people should research the legitimacy of any cryptocurrency exchange before using it and be extremely cautious of those you meet online.
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