2010-08-20 / Community

Cell Phones For Domestic Violence Victims

By Howard Schwach

Pictured at the cell phone program press conference are, from left, Deputy Inspector Thomas Barrett, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, resident Erick Aviles, who came up with the idea for HopeLine, and Danny Ruscillo, president of the 100 Precinct Community Council. Behind Barrett is Natasha Morales, the director of the Queens Crime Victims Advocacy Program. Pictured at the cell phone program press conference are, from left, Deputy Inspector Thomas Barrett, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, resident Erick Aviles, who came up with the idea for HopeLine, and Danny Ruscillo, president of the 100 Precinct Community Council. Behind Barrett is Natasha Morales, the director of the Queens Crime Victims Advocacy Program. One of Rockaway’s newest residents, Erick Aviles of Arverne By The Sea, had what he thought was a good idea.

The general manager of the Fairfield (Connecticut) Marriott, Aviles had been working with a company program that gave back to the community by collecting cell phones and giving them to those in need. “Why not give the cell phones to victims of domestic abuse,” Aviles asked Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer.

Pheffer agreed that it was a good idea, and the HopeLine program was born.

Pheffer, Aviles, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and Deputy Inspector Thomas Barrett, the commanding officer of the 100 Precinct, were all at the stationhouse on Tuesday afternoon to talk about the program and kick off the collection of phones.

“Forty percent of the felony assaults in the 100 Precinct are tied to domestic violence,” Barrett told those present at the press conference. “Allowing the victims quick access to the 911 system can mean all the difference.”

Brown said, “I applaud Assemblywoman Pheffer and Mr. Aviles for their efforts in expanding this important program, which will go a long way in helping restore the voices of domestic violence victims – typically women and children – with reliable, mobile, potentially life-saving links to law enforcement in times of crisis.”

Verizon Wireless works with the HopeLine program by taking the donated phones and wiping them clean of their previous owner’s footprint

The phones are then given to the district attorney, who in turn gives them to victims of domestic violence in Queens.

In addition, Verizon provides the service and a voice mailbox to all the participants.

“A cell phone is a life saving tool for victims of domestic violence,” Pheffer said. “Donating your old phone is not only good for the environment, but can serve as a lifeline for somebody in need.”

Danny Ruscillo, the president of the precinct’s community council, said that he would begin at his next meeting collecting the old phones and turning them over to the precinct.

We’ll be the collection agent for Rockaway,” he said. “Beginning with this month’s meeting.”

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