Staying Safe As We Age
By Tammy Duffy
In many communities there are many people who live alone. In Hamilton Township. NJ, the Police Department instituted a program known as “Operation Reassurance”.
To take advantage of this program you must live alone and have a telephone. Upon signing up for this program, you are then required to call the Hamilton Police Division at a special phone number to inform them that all is well. You must make this phone call to them each day Monday thru Sunday, between 8:00am and 9:00am. If your call is not received by 9:30am, the police will call you. If there is no answer, the desk officer will dispatch a police car to your residence to see if everything is alright. The intention of this program is to make sure that people living alone will have personal contact each day with someone to make sure all is well. We are interested in your welfare and are here to help.
This always seemed like a great program to me, until this evening. I attended a neighborhood watch meeting and we were all reminded of the existence of this program. They were looking for volunteers to make the phone calls.
There was an older gentleman who attended the meeting and said,” This could be a great way to find a single older woman to date. How can I sign up to make the phone calls to check up on them and find a date.”
At first some of us giggled at his outburst for he was an older gentleman. However, after a few moments I no longer found it funny and thought, “Wait a minute, this could be a perfect avenue for some nut job to find where are all the helpless older people and people living alone in a town are and target them.” These volunteers are given the personal home numbers of these people living alone who sign up for the program. I wondered what kind of background check the township does on the volunteers making the phone.
We live in a very different world today. One cannot be too careful or too aware of their surroundings and those we interact with. As your family members and friends age and they consider signing up for these “alert” services, one must be sure to thoroughly investigate the program. Understand who has control of your data, is the database on a secure network that cannot be hacked, have the people at the companies selling the services had extensive background checks to ensure that they are appropriate to have your data or if its an organization using volunteers, have all of the volunteers had background checks.
Don’t assume it’s a safe program because it’s being run by a police department. Sometimes the simplest things can be overlooked, opening a door for a criminal to know you are alone. Do your own background check on these services and stay safe.