For nearly two decades, the Ocean View Police Department has been offering a senior check-in program, free of charge, to its residents.
“They’ll call in every day and leave a message on our machine,” explained OVPD Capt. Heath Hall. “Once a day, we make sure everyone has called in and checked in with us. If we don’t hear from one of our seniors by noon, then we will call the emergency contact and find out where they are, if they’re OK.”
Hall said the program started even before he and Chief Ken McLaughlin moved to the OVPD.
“We’ve been doing it for at least 18 years. It’s our oldest program.”
Those interested in being part of the program (or having a loved-one participate) should simply contact the department. From there, officers will try to arrange an in-home visit at which an officer will review their level of participation in the program.
“From our initial visit with them, we know where they live, what kind of car they have, how many cars are in the drive — that type of thing,” said Hall. “Usually, we have their doctor’s information. One of the options is they can provide a key, or the location of a hidden key.”
Participants are given a telephone-shaped magnet to place on their refrigerator, with the phone number to call at the station. They must simply call the number, allow it to ring a few times and then may hang up. An officer will later go through the numbers of enrolled residents and check that list against the numbers that have called in.
If a daily call-in is not received by a participating resident by noon, the police, at the resident’s choosing, can call a neighbor, family member or friend to try to learn of their whereabouts. Residents also have the option of having an officer respond to their home.
“They might’ve fallen down and broken their hip in the middle of the night, and can’t move, or, worst-case scenario, they’ve passed away,” said Hall. “Most of the time — especially with new people — they just forget and haven’t called in. During the holiday season, we’ll have a lot of residents go away to stay with family, and they forget to tell us. Or, they’ve just gone and got their hair done.
“In one particular instance, the department was able to prevent a family from finding a loved one passed away at home. That was kind of a close call. Had we not already been there, that would’ve probably been a more traumatizing experience than it was.”
Hall said that, while the program is called “senior check-in,” there is no minimum age requirement for participating; the individual simply needs to reside within town limits.
The program is low-impact, said Hall, with low financial cost (one dedicated phone line) and time spent.
“The positives greatly outweigh any costs or time constraints,” he said. “It’s one of our best community-policing programs we have, and it’s one of our oldest. It’s just a good way for the department to give back to our community and look after our seniors, after all they’ve done for us over the years.”
Senior check-in is one of many community-oriented programs the department operates.
“I think it’s a positive way to help them. I think the family members and seniors themselves feel good knowing someone is going to look after them,” he said. “I think sometimes they’re surprised we care. I think sometimes people think all we do is lock up bad guys and write tickets — and there’s more that we do. The service aspect is very important to us, and this is just one program where we feel we can give back and serve our community.”
For more information on the program or to sign up, contact the Ocean View Police Department at (302) 539-1111.
By Maria Counts