When you’ve just been involved in a collision, the first few seconds are only the beginning.
Of course, it’s time to call to 911. But when the dispatcher picks up, sometimes there’s not much you can describe. No landmarks or road signs in sight. Maybe someone is injured, or your car is stuck, blocking the roadway, and you need a response, fast. You don’t want to waste time hoping police can find you based on a panicked description of your surroundings.
That’s the scenario police departments are trying to avoid by adopting 911eye, a dispatch technology several New Jersey police departments have deployed over the past six months and are among the first in the nation to test the software
The United Kingdom-based company made the service to take advantage of technology in smart phones, allowing dispatcher to text or email a one-time encrypted link to the caller. When they click it, their exact location is transmitted to the dispatcher, and they can also start a live stream that sends photos and videos to show the severity of injuries or crimes.
From identifying rabid raccoons to catching a burglary or violent crime on camera, the streaming service is meant to augment police response. South River’s police department launched the service in November under a free beta test that will last for one-year, at which point the department can debate the merits of renewing it.
So far, it’s come into play when someone from out of town was involved in a crash, but wasn’t familiar with the location, Sgt. Peter Roselli of the South River police said. Another call was a backyard fire, and the most serious call came during a medical emergency in the town’s warehouse district, where it’s easy to get lost, he said.
“Not only was the dispatcher able to assist in identifying the location, but they were able to assess the patient to the best that they possibly could,” Sgt. Peter Roselli of the South River Police Department said. “We’re better off appropriating the proper resources.”
The Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, Manchester Township Police Department and Toms River Police Department have also launched the software, according to the company.
With 780,000 calls a year and more than 140 agencies, the Monmouth County dispatch center is a busy one.
Sheriff Shaun Golden said he likes what he’s seen so far from 911eye during its free test.
The update is a much-needed one, allowing the department, which has already been recognized nationally for its outstanding 911 services, to take its response to the next level, he said.
“We wish the state of New Jersey would conduct upgrades like this,” Golden said, noting his office only got the upgrade because of its direct relationship with the vendor. “They’ve been diverting 911 money for far too long.”
Golden criticized what he sees as the state’s negligence to fund 911 upgrades in recent years.
In Manchester Township, police paid just under $7,000 to get the technology using drug forfeiture funds. Theirs is a permanent addition to the department’s resources.
“It puts us in a better position to respond with real-time information,” Manchester Lt. Vincent Manco said.
In just a little over a month, they’ve used 911eye to respond to the mundane incidents, an animal control call, an out traffic light. But police are all optimistic the service will have value for more serious calls, too.
“You’re basically catching the crime scene in the act,” Roselli said. “That’s all evidence that’s going to be assisting in following up in an investigation.”