FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) ―
Mar 25, 2010 6:23 am US/Eastern
Cops In N.J. Town Given Keys To Homes
Franklin Township Police Set Up Realtor-Like Lockboxes So Officers Can Respond Immediately To Emergencies
'Operation Blue Angel' Funded By Money Seized During Drug Busts
It's a novel program designed to improve the safety of senior citizens in New Jersey.
The program would allow police quick access into a home to help anyone having a medical emergency without having the break down the door.
Marilyn Chesner is a retired music teacher and a widow. Living alone, the 79-year-old recently had a close call.
"I was standing there, and next thing I know I was on the floor," Chesner said.
That moment passing out in the bathroom made her think about things.
"I wondered what would happen if something happened, and I couldn't get out of bed or move. How could someone get into the house?" Chesner said.
That's why the grandmother was the first person to join "Operation Blue Angel" run by the Franklin Township Police Department.
Now Chesner has a lockbox with a spare key inside, similar to the one realtors use, which allows police to get into her home in the event of an emergency.
"Hopefully I will never need them, but it does give me an extra sense of security," Chesner said.
The lockbox has a combination that opens up the compartment with the spare key. Police first knock on the door, and if they don't get a response, they unlock the door and go in.
"No matter who you are, God forbid you get sick, we can respond immediately," Franklin Township Police Chief Craig Novick said.
Chief Novick came up with the idea after one of the area's huge snowstorms.
"What if we had to respond to the house where the keyholder couldn't respond because they were snowed-in? What would we do?" Chief Novick said.
Since the program started a week ago, 20 seniors and people with medical conditions have signed up. It provides peace of mind for their children.
"They can call us to send police to the house, to make sure their mother or father are alright," Deputy Chief Larry Roberts said.
"I'm just sorry they didn't start this a long time ago, and hope people take advantage of it," Chesner said.
Chesner said he understands that the little box could mean the difference between life or death.
Operation Blue Angel is funded completely by money seized during drug busts. While the program is intended for people with medical conditions or those 55 or older, anyone can sign up.
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