Any neighborhood-watch group in America can get a free cellular telephone to help it fight crime.
“Now, when drug dealers wear pagers and gang members have cell phones, I think it’s time we put high technology on the side of law and order,” President Clinton said Wednesday at a ceremony designed to burnish his election-year credentials both as a crime-fighter and as a leader who relies upon citizen action as well as upon the government to improve society.
Under the Communities on Phone Patrol (COPP) program, some 50,000 free cell phones will be donated initially to citizen-patrol groups by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, a trade group, which made the grant in response to an appeal from Clinton this spring.
The donation costs the taxpayers nothing. The CTIA pledged to provide free air time so the phones can work, and to provide additional phones as needed.
The CTIA’s grant came in response to Clinton’s May 10 commencement address at Pennsylvania State University, where he decried “a stunning and simultaneous breakdown of community, family and work” and challenged citizens to take personal responsibility for improving civic life.
The CTIA decided to donate the phones after its leaders met in June with Vice President Al Gore, who asked them to help.
Users will be able to call only the numbers that will be pre-programmed by local law-enforcement officials.