Anne Arundel County officials began participation yesterday in a national program intended to collect unwanted wireless phones, refurbish them and donate them to victims of domestic abuse.
The goal is to gather 300 wireless phones from nine collection centers around the county through April 30. The effort is being jump-started by a donation of 25 phones - complete with limited emergency service - from Nextel Communications Inc. and Motorola Inc.
"Victims of domestic violence feel themselves in danger," said State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee, who joined with Sheriff George F. Johnson IV to announce participation in the Call to Protect program. "Having a phone can help alleviate that danger and allow them to have a normal life."
Weathersbee described a case his office prosecuted last week in which an Annapolis resident used a wireless phone donated through another local program to call 911 after being threatened by her boyfriend, against whom she had court proceedings.
Call to Protect was established in 1996 by members of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, Motorola and the Wireless Foundation, the CTIA's corporate philanthropic wing.
"To date nationwide, we've placed 30,000 phones in the hands of domestic violence victims," said Nick Sample, the Nextel area vice president.
Donate a Phone, a companion program established by the Wireless Foundation, Motorola and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, refurbishes and sells unwanted wireless phones and uses the proceeds to support victims of domestic violence and other charitable activities.
Johnson said Anne Arundel County decided to take part in the Call to Protect program because of the large number of domestic violence cases handled each year. About 1,450 domestic violence incidents were reported in 2001, the most recent year data is available, resulting in 1,165 arrests.
Weathersbee added that half of all homicides in the county are the result of domestic violence, including six deaths last year.
In addition to the program announced yesterday, Anne Arundel County residents have access to other national programs that use communications technology to help domestic violence victims.
Verizon Wireless works with the Maryland Family Violence Council through the HopeLine program to use the proceeds from the sale of used wireless phones to purchase new handsets, which are given to victims of domestic violence along with free airtime, according to Jodi Finkelstein, director of the center.
While the program in Maryland started last summer, it has operated nationwide since 1995, giving 4,000 phones to victims of domestic abuse.
The home security company ADT Security Services Inc. also sponsors a program that places home security systems - along with panic alarms - in the homes of domestic abuse victims in 160 communities across the country, including Anne Arundel County.