PAULA HLADE, M.A.
RENO POLICE DEPT, NV
What inspired your agency to partner up with the 911 Cell Phone Bank (911CPB)?
We actually found out about it from our neighbor to the South, the Las Vegas Metro Police Department. This service was mentioned as an invaluable resource in a grant discussion, so we decided to look into it. Obtaining affordable cell phones with 911 access and/or service can be costly and, since we rely on grants to fund such items, we try to be conservative and purchase the most affordable phone and plan. Unfortunately, this isn’t always an option since many retailers often only have the most expensive phones and plans available. Due to the urgency of the need, we are left with no other affordable options and end up purchasing phones for $80-$100 per victim. We are so thankful this organization (911CPB) exists, and we found out about them at just the right time since grant funding is not historically a stable source of funding and the federal government has continued to make cuts year after year. Due to the current political climate and anti-law enforcement sentiment, we are finding it increasingly harder to secure funding as we are system-based advocates. It is heartwarming to find agencies that openly acknowledge the hard work being done by victim advocates, even in law enforcement.
What benefits has your department and community experienced since using the 911CPB program?
The Reno Police Department is currently the only agency in our area contracted with 911CPB, however, we currently work with our partnering agencies to procure items to send in. We also share the phones and devices that we receive back with those agencies. We are firm believers in collaboration, and this is one of the many ways we all work together to serve victims of crime in our community.
Can you share an experience where a victim of domestic violence has benefited from a 911CPB cell phone?
The minute phones have been a beneficial tool to locate and keep in contact with victims of sex trafficking after they are released from custody. It can be hard to maintain communication when there may be lengthy periods of time during the investigation, and many victims may have a more transient lifestyle. These phones are also helpful once the victim has worked on a safety plan with their advocate. Once their basic needs are met, they can use these phones to help them complete intake screening for programs which can help them with long-term aftercare. The phones have provided a way to keep in touch with these types of victims, which is difficult due to the nature of their victimization and ingrained general distrust of law enforcement.
Example case: A domestic violence victim was found fleeing from her home with a child in tow and was connected to a VSU advocate. The advocate met with the family in their emergency placement. The family had left with nothing but the clothing on their backs and required basic needs to include food, clothing, and a 911CPB phone. The family was able to use this phone to connect with a DV shelter the following morning. The family was non-English speaking and the phone provided them the ability to connect to their bilingual resources. The DV victim then used the 911CPB phone to inform the VSU advocate that she and her children were accepted into a DV shelter and that she thought she was going to be okay with the support she was given by everyone involved. She was appreciative of VSU and the services and resources provided to her.
What encouragement would you offer to others who are interested in donating phones and other electronic devices to the 911CPB?
911CPB is such a needed and useful resource for victim service agencies that I’m not sure how we ever operated without such a service! The initial discussion with upper management can be difficult because 911CPB offers such a unique service at no cost that it almost seems too good to be true. After the skepticism subsides, agency heads (especially in law enforcement) see the benefit of sending these devices to get professionally wiped and refurbished and are eager to get started. 911CPB is transparent about what they do with the devices and provide assurances in writing, which alleviate concerns about the release of information and potential liability issues. If you are donating items, you can be assured that the 911CPB is the best choice for donation as their level of service and integrity is unmatched.
What advice or feedback would you offer to other law enforcement or victims’ agencies if they are considering becoming an agency partner with the 911CPB?
There are no drawbacks, and the benefits are worth it. This is one small piece of a safety plan that we can offer victims that give them a little bit more peace of mind in an already chaotic situation.