Newspaper

Apr 8, 2014

Inmates Offer Safety Tips for Elders in Sheriff’s New Program

By: Kim Ring

TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

 

MILLBURY — When Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis heard an inmate say he uses sticks of wood in his windows to prevent break-ins, he went home and used sticks of wood to secure his windows.

The sheriff also made a few other changes at home based on what the “experts” at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction told him about their criminal careers.

He also filmed two inmates talking about their tips on how senior citizens can avoid becoming crime victims and has taken the show on the road with planned stops at area senior centers, assisted living facilities and senior housing.

The seminar, “Serving Time, Preventing Crimes: Inmates in Their Own Words and Understanding Your Health Care” helps senior citizens learn easy safety tips that can keep them from being robbed or having their homes burglarized. The program is sponsored by The Senior Focus with Attorney Nick Kaltsas, a program on Charter TV 3.

“Part of our job is to use our office to promote public safety,” the sheriff told seniors at Millbury Health Care Center on Thursday. “And who better to tell you how to stay safe than the inmates who have committed these crimes themselves.”

During the video the inmates, their faces blurred to protect their identity, talk about how something as simple as a barking dog might deter them from entering a house.

 

Noise, they said, will send them running. But they also warned that they’re not afraid to enter homes even when residents are inside. A purse near an open window is easy prey, and they’ll risk climbing inside to snatch it and run.

The sheriff said larcenies and robberies are usually the result of people looking for quick cash they can use to buy drugs. With heroin use on the rise, addicts will often turn to theft as a way to feed their habits.

 

The inmates said they often break into cars, especially those left unlocked or those with items like cellphones, GPS devices and wallets in plain view. And, they warned, tossing valuables into the trunk isn’t a way to protect them because thieves will smash a window, pop the trunk and be gone with the items in seconds.

 

They’ll steal tools, wallets, and “anything I can sell quick,” the inmates said.

 

They’re also not afraid to approach an elderly person, steal a purse or wallet or packages they’re carrying but they’re less likely to approach an undistracted senior who walks confidently, makes brief eye contact and is aware of his or her surroundings.

 

They urged the elders to look around, make note of people who may be lurking in parking lots or are dressed in dark clothes.

 

“Your body will tell you (if something’s not right),” they said.

 

It was clear that some of the seniors who attended on Thursday have been paying attention to safety for a while. A few offered tips of their own, such as being careful scratching lottery tickets and reacting to a win inside a convenience store where someone might see and take advantage after the ticket is cashed in.

 

Another woman said using a car alarm can be a deterrent and setting it off if there’s a situation can send a would-be thief running. Keeping the car keys near the bed and using that alarm in case someone breaks in was also recommended.

 

The program includes information about estate planning, health care and preparing for the future financially, as well.

The sheriff is traveling through Worcester County delivering the message and will be at the West Boylston Senior Center at 10:30 a.m. April 7, at Leominster Life Care at 6 p.m. April 9, at KT Senior Housing in Auburn at 1:30 p.m. April 10, and at Upton Senior Center at 1 p.m. April 15.

Dec 17, 2013

An Eye for an ID? Worcester County Sheriff Evangelidis Offering Iris Scans as Way to Track Missing Kids

By: Michael Hartwell
Sentinel & Enterprise News

iris scan
Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis looks through an iris scanner in his West Boylston office as he discusses how the Sheriff’s Office is offering the scans as a way to identify missing children and seniors.

By: John Love (Sentinel&Enterprise)

 

 

WEST BOYLSTON — Children can mislead, the elderly can forget, but Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis said the eye never lies.

 

Iris-scanning identification, a staple of spy films and science fiction, is already being used by law enforcement, and Evangelidis is putting the word out to parents and community leaders about his effort to scan children’s irises to store in a database.

 

Sometimes law-enforcement officers encounter lost or missing children who do not know their full names or addresses. They can now use a smartphone app to view the child’s eyes to see if his or her information has been entered into a database. If it is, the information will come up within seconds.

 

“We want to make this another tool in the law-enforcement toolbox to protect people,” Evangelidis said.

 

This month, his community-outreach team started setting up a booth at fairs and other community events to scan the eyes of kids for the database. Participation is strictly optional, and Evangelidis said children are automatically scrubbed from the database when they turn 18.

 

The scans will not take place at schools. Evangelidis said he wants to make sure all children entered into the database have parental consent.

 

He also gave the example of Elizabeth Smart, an abducted child who was convinced to lie about who she was. She was encountered by law-enforcement agents several times, but gave false information. Evangelidis said iris-scanning would have changed that.

 

“The iris never lies,” Evangelidis said.

 

Three years ago, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office started the eye-scanning program for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Thousands have signed up, and the inclusion of children is an expansion of that program.

 

Evangelidis said the eye scan, which captures the details of the iris, are the most accurate biometric available. The iris is 10 times more identifiable than fingerprints, which can change in older people.

 

The iris, however, never changes. Even identical twins have different irises.

 

Shawn McKenna, community-outreach coordinator for the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, demonstrated how the scanner works. Individuals lean into the visor-like device and look through the glass. A camera quickly takes a photo, and the person’s information is typed into a computer.

 

McKenna said a scan of only one eye is needed for the system to work, though “we like to get both eyes to be as accurate as possible,” he said.

 

The image of the iris and the information are then put into a database in Phoenix maintained by The Nation’s Missing Children Organization and Center for Missing Adults.

 

The database is national. Evangelidis said if a child wanders off at an amusement park in Florida and has his eyes checked by a law-enforcement officer, their information will still come up.

 

He said sheriff’s departments in other counties in Massachusetts have already rolled out similar programs.

Dec 16, 2013

Sheriff Tours Town to Deliver Warmth to Local Organizations

Annual Coat Drive Fills Growing Need in Worcester County.

 

BY CHELSEA DAVIS
NEWS STAFF WRITER

 

SOUTHBRIDGE — Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis brought a little warmth to town last week, as he stopped at three locations in Southbridge for the 2013 Sheriff’s Annual Winter Coat Drive on Thursday, Dec. 5.

 

“There’s much need for the coats in this area,” Evangelidis said.

 

Evangelidis distributed roughly 480 coats to the three locations in Southbridge, giving each place about 15 bags filled with 10 to 15 coats each.

 

The sheriff first stopped at the Tradewinds Clubhouse at 309 Main St.

 

“You guys make us proud,” Evangelidis said of Tradewinds Clubhouse.

 

The employees and members of Tradewinds Clubhouse offered a thank you card to Evangelidis for the donation.

 

Evangelidis then moved to Catholic Charities, at 79 Elm St., to give more coats.

 

“We’re extremely grateful,” said Area Administrator for Catholic Charities of Worcester County Lisa Genest.

 

Catholic Charities has been offering coats for no charge during the season for nine years, Genest said.

 

“I can’t imagine how a parent feels when they can’t provide a coat for their child,” Genest said.

 

The coats were available from Catholic Charities starting Friday, Dec. 6. Finally, Evangelidis stopped at the Center of Hope at 100 Foster St.

 

“This will be so great,” said Public Relations and Administration of the Center of Hope Cindy Howard, “This will fill a void of need here.”

 

Howard told Evangelidis of the many services and events they offer to the town.

 

As he said at the other locations, Evangelidis said the Center of Hope was “very inspiring.”

 

Evangelidis became Worcester County sheriff in January 2011 and inherited the Annual Winter Coat Drive.

 

“This is his third year doing it,” said Office of the Worcester County Sheriff Director of External Affairs Kim Roy, “and he’s expanded it so much.”

 

“We went from donating hundreds of coats each year to donating thousands,” Evangelidis said.

 

Evangelidis was not alone in his donations to Southbridge.

 

“We could not be here without Spiro,” Evangelidis said, referring to Southbridge Middle High School history teacher Spiro Thomo. “The school really stepped up for the cause.”

 

Thomo and fellow teacher Rick Carraro helped to receive coats along with the Southbridge Student Council.

 

“The students on the Student Council thought it would be a great idea,” Thomo said.
Beginning at the end of October through the last week of November, students, teachers and faculty members donated coats to the cause of the Sheriff’s Annual Winter Coat drive.
“We collected about 482 coats,” Thomo said.
Twin City Cleaners of Dudley then washed all the coats before putting them in bags to be distributed.

 

“We’re so proud of all the people at Southbridge Middle High School,” Evangelidis said.

 

Prior to visiting Southbridge, Evangelidis began the day at 9:30 a.m. by giving away coats in Northern Worcester County as well, totaling more than 2,000 coats given by the last stop at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

 

There were many happy and grateful faces seen where the sheriff traveled that day.

 

“It’s amazing to me that there’s so much need everywhere,” Evangelidis said.

Dec 10, 2013

They Scored Big for Area Needy

By Jack Minch, Sentinel & Enterprise

 

LEOMINSTER — Sheriff Lew Evangelidis got an assist from New England Revolution soccer star Diego Fagundez delivering over 1,000 coats to the Spanish American Center Thursday.

“It’s an honor to do this,” Evangelidis said. “It’s a wonderful time for all of us to give back a little bit.”

Evangelidis made eight stops throughout Worcester County delivering coats.

He started in Gardner then made stops at the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center and Hope Center in Fitchburg before arriving in Leominster.

Evangelidis is scheduled to continue his deliveries in Worcester and Southbridge today.

Fagundez made a special trip to help deliver the coats to Leominster.

A black van pulled up to the center and Fagundez joined a line of volunteers hauling large black plastic bags filled with coats inside.

The Reserve Deputy Sheriff’s Association coordinates collection of the coats for the disadvantaged. The coats are new and gently used.

Wachusett Mountain Ski Area jump-started this year’s collection by donating 1,000, said Kimberly Roy, external-affairs director for Evangelidis’ office.

Fagundez who traveled with his father to Washington, wore a Leominster soccer hoodie. He recently completed his high-school coursework and will graduate with his Leominster High School classmates in the spring, and jumped at the opportunity to help deliver the coats.

“I said of course, it’s a good cause,” he said. “It’s a nice thing to do and since it’s my hometown I wanted to do it.”

The center’s executive director, Neddy Latimer, and advocate Nicolas Formaggia said there is a strong need for the coats.

“You’d be surprised there are so many people who don’t have what they need,” Latimer said.

In years past, people who needed the coats were invited to the delivery party but it created chaos so this year the center is collecting requests and sorting the coats before handing them out.

“We can make a more fair distribution,” Formaggia said.

Evangelidis started by delivering 300 coats in Gardner then 300 at each at Cleghorn Neighborhood Center and Hope Center in Fitchburg.

“I hope people know these are nice, clean coats, they aren’t just in a bag,” Evangelidis said.

Wachusett Mountain, Dr. D’Ambrosio Eye Care, the New England Revolution and Gardner Museum collected coats and jackets for the program, as well as individual donors.

“I wanted to say thank you from us,” Latimer.