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STAR Program Helps Safeguard Residents

Posted on May 23, 2016

More than 70 residents have signed on to the township’s new STAR Program – a list that keeps growing, along with the services that the program offers.

Officially known as the Safeguarding Township Adult Residents Program, STAR seeks to keep seniors and at-risk residents safe, assist them in times of emergency, and connect them to existing services when needed. The program is coordinated by the Washington Township Substation of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

“There’s an ever increasing population of older residents who have no one locally they can depend on,” says Captain Jeff Papanek, Washington Township police director. “The motto of law enforcement is to ‘protect and serve’ and this program embodies that spirit. We’re not here to fix all the problems, but we try to connect the dots.”

Deputy Jeff Gray, who initiated the program, has introduced these voluntary services for residents who choose to sign up for STAR:

  • Emergency Contacts – When people live alone, it may not be clear who to contact in an emergency. First responders may be required to track down information about relatives by knocking on doors and making follow up phone calls. In the process, valuable time is lost. Residents in the STAR Program provide their emergency contacts in advance so that families can connect quickly with each other.
  • Front Door Lock Boxes – In an emergency, first responders can gain entry more quickly, and with less damage to the home, if residents have a lock box on the front door with a key inside. Residents can order the boxes through the STAR Program for $23. Gray will purchase the boxes and save the lock box code so that it’s available to first responders.

Participants have their information entered into the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center system. When an emergency occurs at a STAR residence, dispatchers and first responders see emergency contacts and the lock box code before even reaching the scene.

The STAR program also has an indirect benefit, says Gray, who has developed a close connection with the residents he checks on: “Each one of the people I visit has a unique story. I just try to listen and do whatever I can." This has involved police-related work such as following up on home security issues, assisting residents who have been price gouged by a contractor, or helping someone who has encountered scammers.

“The people I meet with like the reassurance of knowing someone is periodically around," says Gray. "I’m happy that we can do that.”


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