Crisis Intervention Team & Project Lifesaver


Thursday, October 29, 2015

When citizens think of police officers and what they do, some criminal justice functions usually comes to mind: arresting criminal, issuing traffic summonses, investigating crimes, or collecting evidence to be used in a trial.   While all of this is true, the overwhelming amount of time an average officer spends during a typical shift is answering service related calls: providing assistance to citizens in some way and/or assuming a role as a community caretaker.  The City of Virginia Beach Police Department is very active in two areas to provide that community caretaker service: the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and Project Lifesaver.    Below is a description of each program to remind citizens of services rendered by this agency or an introduction of those services to those unaware that such services are provided by the City.  Additionally, included is a recent testament to the values of these services and the dedication of those police officers and other city and community partners to help those in need.     

 Crisis Intervention Team

 What is a CIT?

 Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs) are designed to reduce negative interactions between individuals with serious mental illness and law enforcement officers, including incidents of violence, and to divert individuals from punitive incarceration to appropriate medical treatment.  CITs are formed through the collaboration of mental health providers, law enforcement agencies, family members of individuals with mental illnesses, and the individuals themselves.  This coalition develops plans to address systems issues, including the best way to transfer someone from law enforcement custody to mental health treatment; and crisis intervention situations, including teaching law enforcement officers how to recognize and de-escalate a psychiatric crisis to prevent injury or death.

 Since its development in 1988 in Memphis, CIT has been implemented by hundreds of communities across the country and statewide in several states.  Studies show that CIT trained officers identify individuals who need psychiatric care and are 25% more likely to transport an individual to a psychiatric treatment facility than other officers.  CIT training also reduces officer stigma and prejudice toward people with mental illness.  Research also shows that police-based diversions in general and CIT in particular, significantly reduce arrests of people with serious mental illness.  Individuals diverted through CIT and other programs receive more counseling, medication and other forms of treatment than individuals who are not diverted.

 In short, CIT is a community partnership that allows individuals with mental illnesses' to be redirected from the Judicial System to the Health Care System.  It is a more educated, understandable and safer approach to mental health crisis events.  It provides law enforcement-based crisis training for officers assisting citizens with mental illness.  Officers are part of a specialized team which can respond to a mental health crisis at any time.  CIT is now used in over 400 Law Enforcement Agencies worldwide, including Australia, Israel, Canada, and Sweden.


Virginia Beach Crisis Intervention Team

The City of Virginia Beach Police Department partnered with the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Department, the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services/Emergency Services and other key stakeholders to develop a Crisis Intervention Team in Virginia Beach in 2008.  Prior to CIT implementation, members of the CIT leadership team met with community members to include members the judiciary, attorneys, religious leaders, family members of those suffering mental illness and members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to develop best practices to provide needed services in a systems-based approach assist those with mental illness or suffering a mental health crisis.  This partnership has since included Virginia Beach Psychiatric and other local hospitals and CIT-related services have provided almost daily since implementation.       

If you have a family member or friend who is experiencing a mental health crisis call 9-1-1


 Virginia Beach Project Lifesaver

 What Is Project Lifesaver?

 Project Lifesaver is a national proactive, electronic tracking, program used to assist in locating people with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders or children with Down's-Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder that wander from home and become lost. A lost child with Autism or Downs Syndrome or an adult wandering from dementia constitutes critical emergency and present challenges to police in searching and rescue operations. While we cannot predict when a person will become lost, we can prepare. The Virginia Beach Police Department in partnership with Project Lifesaver has launched a planned response to all missing persons at-risk and others with special needs that wander off. We have teams of trained officers and special tracking equipment to help locate missing persons who are enrolled in Project Lifesaver. Our department is the first major city police department in the country to take on this effort.

 How does it work?

 The Project Lifesaver uses a personalized transmitter, powered by a small battery that emits a constant radio signal 24-hours a day. Once the police are called that a person is missing, officers identify that signal from a specialized directional antenna and are able to track the wandering person. This equipment is used on foot, in cars and also by air providing maximum cover and capability for search efforts for several miles using the tracking equipment. This is a very successful program. Nationwide, Project Lifesaver has responded to over 2,000 rescues and all were 100% successful with a recovery time less than 30 minutes. 

 What does is cost?

 For $9.00 a month the client will be outfitted with the transmitter, battery tester and a one-year supply of batteries and service. After the first year, the cost will only be batteries to the clients. Financial aid is available for individuals in need as well.  As a 501C-3 organization, our financial statement is available upon written request from the office of consumer affairs.

If you would like to sponsor an individual for one year, your sponsorship will ensure that a client receives the equipment.

Who to Contact:

 VBPD Project Lifesaver is coordinated by our Crime Prevention Unit, (757) 385-2742 (Crime Prevention Unit Mailing Address: 2509 Princess Anne Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23456)

 The National Project Lifesaver's website is


The following are excerpts of e-mails sent by an appreciative citizen to the Police Department on October 27, 2015 to thank officers and other city agencies for services provided to a family member.  This note of thanks is being posted to provide information to the public for those who are facing or may face a similar situation in the future: 

Recently, my father of 85 years has been experiencing on set of Alzheimer’s disease and has exhibited unusual behaviors. Over the past several weeks there have been a number of 911 responses to his home in Virginia Beach where he has lived since 1970.”

 In every instance the Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT) Virginia Beach Police Officers have skillfully, professionally and compassionately handled the situation. During this period the family had in place a plan for our father to see mental health professionals and enter an assisted living facility. CIT Police Officers recognized the efforts of the family and have been instrumental in helping us with protecting his safety and that of the community.

 A week ago he (my father) entered an assisted living facility and became violent which led to him being placed in a facility now where he will get the mental health care he needs. This came about with the help and education by CIT Police Officers with the VBPD. We were fully educated on Emergency Custody Orders (ECO) and Temporary Detention Orders (TDO) thanks to the CIT (certified) Police Officers.

Last Wednesday the Director of Nursing at the assisted living facility and myself began to work the process.  The situation was urgent and a CIT officer was instrumental in directing us to Emergency Services with the Virginia Beach Office of Human Services. In short order the situation was in hand and VBPD officers took him to the emergency room and then my father was placed in a mental health facility.

 CIT trained Police Officers are a tremendous asset to the citizens of Virginia Beach. On behalf of our family we extend our deepest gratitude to the VBPD, Office of Emergency Services and all the CIT Police Officers who have been instrumental in helping our family throughout this ordeal.


Also, I did want to mention that we are working with VBPD Project Lifesaver. The personnel we have interacted with have been wonderful to work with and yet another great example for our city. Again, thank you and if I may be of service in the future please let me know.

Best Regards,

Grateful Citizen