Philadelphia police have collected about 700 used cellphones to distribute to domestic violence victims as part of a yearly drive supporting women's shelters in the city.
Now in its 12th year, the program encourages Philadelphians to donate their used cellphones at Fraternal Order of Police lodges and at all 21 police districts around the city. The phones are collected and sent to Verizon's Hopeline program, which refurbishes them and distributes them to anti-domestic violence agencies all over the country.
In Philadelphia, the phones end up at Women Against Abuse, which operates the city's only emergency shelters for domestic violence victims.
"A lot of the people we serve are coming in our doors with literally the clothes on their back - they're fleeing from life-threatening situations. It might not be safe to go back and get their phone," said Katie Wildes, vice president of advancement at Women Against Violence.
A controlling partner might also closely monitor a victim's cellphone use, Wildes said. Getting a separate phone represents a "transformative moment" for many women.
"They have control again. They have pathways to their loved ones," she said. "It means a lot for us to be able to give these devices to the people we serve."
Capt. Louis Campione, commander of the First District, has headed the project for the last dozen years. He said the department became involved after an officer's daughter was the victim of a domestic violence incident.
"The officer thought that we needed to do more to assist victims of domestic violence, so we began a partnership with Women Against Abuse," he said. "This is one of the things that came from that partnership."
The department holds the drive every October, and this year kept collecting through November.
"It's an important community policing project," Campione said. "It's a tool that we can provide to tell the victims that we're concerned, that we want to reduce their trauma, and that we're standing with them."
FOP lodge president John McNesby said he was pleased with this year's donations, but wants his organization to participate in even more anti-domestic violence initiatives.
"There's got to be something more than just handing a phone in," he said. "You have to go out and do everything you can to stop the abuse, and to draw awareness to it."
For information on how to donate to the Hopeline program, visit: http://www.verizon.com/about/responsibility/hopeline. For information on Women Against Abuse, visit: http://www.womenagainstabuse.org/take-action