ELYNNE GREENE, VICTIM SERVICES MANAGER (RETIRED)
LAS VEGAS METRO POLICE, NV
What inspired your agency to partner up with the 911 Cell Phone Bank (911CPB)?
Initially, I was inspired by the opportunity to keep electronics out of landfill. But, once my agency supported the partnership, I quickly learned that the partnership supported so much more! The availability of 911 emergency cell phones to a domestic violence victim who credited the “secret phone” with saving her life, and the seniors who felt safer leaving home with an emergency phone, was all that I needed to know the value of the partnership. As a victim advocate, my role is to empower victims, often on the worst day of their life. A cell phone is a lifeline for many and having one available is just one small part of a safety plan for many victims.
While the original inspiration was to have a positive impact on our planet, the reasons we have sustained the partnership are much greater!
What benefits has your agency and community experienced since using the 911CPB program?
The cell phone is a lifeline for many and when it is stolen or damaged, or impounded for an investigation, the ability to offer a phone can change everything for a victim of crime. The benefit to the community is another tool for safety and empowerment, but it also reinforces the partnership between law enforcement and the community. The relationship is more than just taking a report and gathering evidence. It is a relationship based on caring and concern for the well-being of community members.
A secondary benefit is that cellphone drives provide an easy way for community members, groups, and businesses to get involved. With little effort, they can have a big impact and know that they are part of something truly important!
The overall safety and security when donating phones is the number one reason donations are so easy to secure. Each time we talk about this program, we include information about safety practices related to data erasure. Donating electronics that have been “cleared” does not guarantee that all data is erased. The technology used by the 911 Cell Phone Bank ensures that all data is erased and secure.
Can you share some examples where a victim of human trafficking or domestic violence has benefited from a 911CPB cell phone?
Over the years, there have been many examples of the impact of just one phone. But with as many phones as we have handed out, there are many stories of the value of just one phone.
A 77-year-old victim of a purse snatching in a supermarket parking lot at 1:30 in the afternoon had become homebound as a result of the violent attack. She was too fearful of going out and became more and more isolated – forgoing social events at the nearby senior center, skipping doctor appointments, and just simply staying home with her landline as a lifeline. Being alone and living on a fixed income made it too costly to have groceries delivered regularly. When a caring neighbor told us about their concerns, we visited the woman and helped her to access homebound social services. But more importantly, we provided her with a cell phone so she could go out during the day and feel safer. The cell phone offered her the opportunity to begin to heal and regain some of the independence that she valued.
In another case, a victim of human trafficking finally agreed to talk to the police about her seven years of exploitation, violence, and abuse. Services were put into place for her and her 3-year-old child, ensuring she was not alone in this journey. The turning point for her was when she had to surrender her cell phone for evidence, at least temporarily. A 911CPB cell phone was provided to the victim to restore her ability to stay connected with law enforcement, advocates, and her family. This was the turning point for this victim in building a positive relationship with those determined to help her – the very same people she once feared.
What encouragement would you offer to others who are interested in donating devices to the 911CPB?
The relationship with the 911 Cell Phone Bank has been beneficial to our agency and our community on so many levels. The availability of cell phones for victims of crime is important for both safety and in maintaining contact with investigators, victim advocates, and social services. It is another tool in our toolbox and is a critical resource for the victims of all crimes. The process of collecting phones is another way to highlight community investment, but it also raises awareness of resources to support victims of crime. The program is free and requires little to no effort on the part of the agency… but the return is immeasurable!
What advice would you offer to other law enforcement or victims’ agencies if they are considering becoming an agency partner with the 911CPB?
First, talk to other agencies who have an established partnership, to learn firsthand, about the benefits and community impact. The materials provided by the 911 Cell Phone Bank are transparent and comprehensive. Plus, the amazing staff is available to answer any questions as well as to provide materials to get started.