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Intensive Evaluation of the Personal Alarm Security System Final Report

NCJ Number
R J Babin
Date Published
222 pages
Findings and conclusions are reported from an evaluation of a personal alarm system in which 200 senior citizens were provided with small portable citizen band radios to permit them to call the police.
Located in Rochester, N.Y., the Personal Alarm Security System (PASS) is the Nation's first call-for-help radio system. Distribution of the radios to 200 volunteers and training of the senior citizens in the use of the radios began in August 1979. During the project's first year, 131 valid calls for assistance took place, along with 29 accidental activations of the radios. The most active user generated 8 calls, 66 users made all of the calls, and 45 of the units were returned for repairs through June 1980. The system was evaluated by means of questionnaire surveys administered in July and November of 1979 and May of 1980. A control group of 200 individuals was also surveyed. Questions concerned overall life satisfaction, actual mobility, victimization rates, sense of safety, satisfaction and experience with PASS and other issues. Both users and other household members were surveyed, and police officers and dispatchers operating the PASS control console were interviewed. Results showed that although users were generally pleased with the system, objective evidence did not indicate improvement on the outcome measures used. Police officers generally accepted the project but were neither enthusiastic nor rejecting of the project. Dispatchers became frustrated with nonemergency uses of the system and with the difficulties arising from what they viewed as faulty equipment and inadequate training. As a result, responsibility for taking PASS calls was shifted to complaint board operators. Nevertheless, 90 percent of the dispatchers felt that PASS radio users did benefit from participation in the project. Overall, the lack of a measurable outcome does not justify assertions that the project was unsuccessful because the outcome measures chosen may have been faulty. The system worked and is still being used by the senior citizens who chose to participate. However, use of some other target group should be considered. Chapter notes, tables and extensive appendixes presenting study instruments, additional results, descriptions of each incident reported to the police, and related materials are included.