NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — An old cellphone sitting in your junk drawer could become a lifeline to someone trapped in an abusive relationship, which is why the New Bedford Police Department is asking you to donate it.
The police department partnered up with the Women’s Center, a non-profit organization created to help domestic violence and sexual assault victims, to host the cellphone donation drive.
“When you are in an abusive situation, you might have a phone, but if your abuser knows about that phone, that’s a phone that can be controlled, it’s a phone that can be tracked,” New Bedford Police Lt. Scott Carola said. “Giving them this phone that they can keep secret is really something that is really helpful to them until they can get out of that situation.”
The cellphone donation drive is typically held during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, but since it was extremely successful this year, the New Bedford Police Department has decided to extend it through November.
In the last week alone, the department has collected approximately 100 cellphones, which is their largest donation to date.
“A lot of victims of domestic violence, they have a financial hardship and if they have a safety plan that involves them starting somewhere new, they need basic stuff and a cellphone’s one of them,” Hassan Souto, education outreach coordinator for the Women’s Center said.
Souto said because of the pandemic, domestic violence cases are at an all-time high. The New Bedford Police Department, according to Carola, responds to approximately 2,500 domestic violence calls annually.
“The severity of domestic violence has increased 80% … murder-suicides have doubled. One of the unintended consequences of the coronavirus has been isolation,” Souto explained. “People being alone with their abusers, people not having access … So, it’s really important for people to take that bystander role a lot more serious and if you see something, to say something.”
Souto said while an old phone might not seem important to some, it could be a crucial tool for others.
“If you just left with your children and you went to a new state or you’re staying with a relative … you need your phone to connect with your family, your friends, the children’s school,” Souto explained. “So, the fact that we’re able to provide them with a phone, 100% free, is amazing.”
The Women’s Center has phone donation boxes at police departments across Bristol County, but Souto said the best place to drop them off is in New Bedford.
Once donated, the phones are taken to Verizon to be refurbished and then set up for victims to use.
“Instead of keeping it in your junk drawer, think about donating it because somebody else can use it,” Souto said.