McKINNEY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – An essential tool to help women escape abusive relationships is becoming harder to come by, according to those who operate women’s shelters.

More people are trading in their unwanted cell phones for newer models when they could be giving them away and possibly help save a life.

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The McKinney Police Department has launched a new program to try to get people to donate their old phones.

There’s a barrel at the welcome window at McKinney Police Headquarters through the month of October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The department is collecting unwanted cell phones which can help victims of abuse.

Old, donated cell phones (CBS 11)

Escaping an abuser often begins with an initial call for help from a phone that can be hard to track.

These are the rooms inside the Hope’s Door New Beginning Center in Plano where women and their children find sanctuary and protection from physical abuse

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“We had one client who was being tracked by her abuser on her cell phone, so when we were able to give her new cell phone she was able to use that and safely get around and not worry about having a stalker,” said Beth Robinson of Hope’s Door New Beginning Center in Plano.

Hope’s Door says it simply doesn’t have enough cell phones for all of the domestic violence survivors in need of a lifeline.

Sometimes abusers destroy their victims’ phones or refuse them access to a phone, experts say.

The McKinney Police Department’s crime victim advocate began a collection drive for unwanted phones that will be wiped clean and programmed to connect with 911 even without a service plan.

The donated phone and chargers will be distributed to victims to hide from their abusers if necessary until they can safely get away.

Because more people are trading in their old phones for newer models, getting donations is harder than ever at women’s shelters.

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That’s why a national donation program through Verizon ended last year, but the need for them is still as great as ever, according to women’s shelters.