Called Operation Blue Angel, the program involves the installation of a heavy-duty blue lockbox on or next to the front door of a residence.
Inside is a key to the home supplied by the home’s primary occupants, which police alone can use to enter the residence in an emergency, according to an announcement of the program on the borough website.
The service is open to borough residents over 55 who live alone, or are regularly alone for extended periods, or have medical conditions that might impede them in opening the door for police answering an emergency call.
“Frequently, we respond to calls for assistance where a resident is incapacitated, and are delayed in entering the home due to the lack of a readily available means to do so,” the announcement said. “Operation Blue Angel will provide a method for our officers to gain access to your home and provide immediate assistance without the need to cause damage to a door or window.”
According to Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, Blue Angel was launched in 2015 by Princeton Borough police and has been adopted by other municipalities around New Jersey. Red Bank may be the first in Monmouth County, she said at the April 22 council meeting.
“Especially during times like we are going through right now with the pandemic, it’s great to be able to offer an addition service to our residents to keep them safe,” Triggiano said.
It has built-in safeguards, said Triggiano, who serves as police commissioner.
“The key will only be accessed by responding police officers in the event of an emergency where officers cannot [otherwise] access the residence,” she said.
According to RBPD, each lockbox will have a distinct code that will only be provided to a responding officer once a call for assistance has been made by the resident or on that person’s behalf.
The program is free, and the boxes will be owned and maintained by the police department, Triggiano said. They’ll also install the device, she said.
For a home to be included in the Blue Angel program, every occupant over the age of 18 must sign an application in which they agree that the lockbox “is not a ‘lock out’ service for me, my family and friends,” and that calls for non-emergency help are grounds for removal from the program.
In addition, homeowners and tenants must acknowledge that in some cases, police or firefighters may still need to bust down a door “in the event of time-sensitive situation (e.g. medical emergency, fire, home invasion, etc.) or malfunction of the lock box.”
The application form can be found here.
The program is completely funded by donations to the Police Department Trust Account, which is dedicated to furthering community policing efforts, Triggianoo said.