Public safety is in step with the times
As public-safety answering points across the nation upgrade their operations to accept texts, images and videos from wireless 911 callers, I’m encouraged to see the public-safety community at large harnessing the mobile-phone habits of citizens, especially younger generations, to make the streets safer.
Late last month, the Associated Press distributed a story about the success of anonymous tip lines whereby crime witnesses can tip off police via text messaging. Police never know who the tipster is because the messages are handled by a third-party server where information about the caller is stripped out. People who historically have feared retaliation in high-crime areas now feel comfortable to send on pertinent information.
The city of Boston enacted its program two years ago and has received more than 1,000 tips. Many of these tips led police to key leads on some high-profile crimes, such as an arson fire that killed two children and a fatal stabbing of a man during a bar fight.
In Denver, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) created a new iPhone app called the “R-U Buzzed BAC Calculator” that allows users to calculate their blood-alcohol level by entering in basic information such as gender, height, weight and number of drinks. The app, introduced in the middle of November in time for the heavy-drinking holidays, displays a warning that says, “Don’t even think about it,” if users have had too much to drink. Users can then click on a taxi icon for the phone number of the closest Yellow Cab dispatch, which is found using the phone’s GPS application.
The app, the first issued by a state transportation department, is part of CDOT’s major campaign around reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road and already has been downloaded more than 3,000 times, according to the Denver Post.
Services like these will only bolster enhanced-911 capabilities when they come to fruition. I can see the anonymous tip text service integrating into a PSAP so that a dispatcher can relay as much information as possible. It’s a mobile-phone world, and public-safety agencies are waking up to the fact that they need to communicate and offer citizens a way to communicate in this language.
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