The Conway Police Department is already checking on the city’s senior citizens when people who can’t get to their friends and family members are worried about them, and some of the situations they’ve run into have been tragic even including deaths, according to Conway Police Chief Dale Long.
“We’re getting calls from families that live other places saying things like, “Hey I can’t reach mom, my dad or whoever it is, so we’re already doing this,” Long said.
Now with the help of a $5,000 grant, the CPD plans to step up this service with two new programs. One known as Senior Call gets a person 60-years-old and older, who lives alone inside the city limits and has no friends or families close by, a weekly call from a Conway police officer. When they don’t get an answer they’ll head to their homes to check on them.
The other, called Senior Watch, is for the same group of people, who want someone to make a home visit to check on them at least once a week.
“People don’t even know their neighbors any more and can’t even run over and knock on the door,” Long said.
Senior Master Patrol Officer Tyrese Nesmith, who is in charge of the programs, has done a fantastic job of developing some of the criteria, consulting with others around the state to get operational guidelines, according to the Chief who points out that Conway is starting its official program from scratch.
They’ll kick off the programs as soon as people start signing up.
“We’re ready any day,” Long said. “As soon as we get people starting to sign up, we’re ready to start.”
Councilman William Goldfinch likes the idea, saying the city is here to protect and serve, so he thinks this is part of that service element
In addition to protecting seniors, he sees the program as a way for police to build trust with Conway’s citizens.
It’s an opportunity for officers to get out in the community to build relationships with citizens, he said.
“It also helps our police department when they need to know what’s going on. The better relationships they have with folks, the more likely and cooperative they are going to be to report…things that need to be reported,” he said
“As long as we can keep up with demand we’re going to do this the best that we can, so we’re here to protect and serve so that is that service piece of it,” Goldfinch said
Councilman Larry White is also a supporter of the program, saying he understands the need and thinks it will build relationships for police.
“Hopefully, the people know this is what’s being done. I think it’s a good program and it’s needed because some folks live by themselves, and I’m one of them, and every now and then I’d love someone to come check on me,” he chuckled, pointing out that sometimes people’s children just don’t have time to check on them
“We’re just hoping that this will be seen as a very positive issue from the community,” he said.
Councilwoman Jean Timbes thinks it’s a wonderful idea, but worries that once a week isn’t enough. She wonders why they don’t form some type of Robocall that seniors will use to check in regularly letting the cops know they’re okay.
She believes the need is there with many people who don’t have anyone checking on them.
They could be hurt on Monday, and it could be Thursday or Friday before anyone finds them.
She thinks it needs to be every other day or with two days in between. She likes checking on the seniors every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“That would be good,” she said.
People who want to sign up for these programs can go to the police website or call (843) 248-1790.
One of Long’s few concerns is that his department might be overwhelmed with people who want to join the two programs, adding that they’re not equipped for huge numbers like 1,000 people.
If too many people sign up, he said, they might have to up the age to 65 or 70 for citizens to participate, but as of earlier this week that wasn’t a problem.