Lockboxes, which have been used for home showings in the real estate business, also have an application in police work. This one, shown at the Westerly police station, will be given to a Westerly resident in a new program to provide police access for well-being checks and avoid the need for forced entry during an emergency. Jason Vallee, The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — The Westerly Police Department, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Westerly, has launched a lockbox program intended to aid the department in responding to medical calls or making well-being checks.

Community Officer Howard Mills said the goal is to improve response times and reduce property damage caused by forced entry into the homes of elderly or less mobile residents.

“It’s a concept we had discussed internally, but at the time it would have been a difficult program to implement and we decided to revisit it later. A month or so after that, Kathryn Taylor called me up and asked whether we could administer the program,” Mills said. Taylor is president of the Rotary Club. “It’s free of charge and they already funded the purchase of the boxes, so they were doing their part. I wanted to do mine.”

The way the program works is simple: A resident registers with police and will receive a Masterlock combination lockbox, containing a key, that will be placed in an agreed-upon location on the property.

The police will take photos of the home and box location to be included in a secure database available only to the local police. Mills sets the lock combination, which is not given to the homeowner. The idea is to ensure a high level of security.

“This is a program that especially benefits those who are less mobile or at risk to slip and fall,” Mills said. “If they have a bracelet, for example, they could signal for help, which will start 911 services. This will allow an officer to know how to enter before he arrives, and to be able to get in without having to break a door or window. It’s a win-win.”

The Rotary Club got involved after a presentation by Sgt. Ricardo Mourato of the Bristol police, who implemented the program in that town, and his son, Richard Mourato, who is an officer with the Westerly department.

Rona Mann, president-elect of the Rotary Club of Westerly, said the organization bought about a dozen lockboxes from McQuade’s Ace Hardware. The police are keeping the boxes and will help residents with registration and installation.

A lockbox is available by request from any resident, Mann said, but “they are specifically destined for the homes of the elderly, disabled, or for people who live alone.”

Mills said the program began earlier this year and was advertised on Facebook, with no success. “Last week, however, we presented an informational presentation at the Westerly Senior Center and we have already installed three since,” he said.

The program is open to residents of Westerly on a first come, first served basis. Anyone interested in having a lockbox installed can contact Mills at 401-348-6170 or by email, hmills@westerlypolice.org.

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