Thursday, June 5, 2008

GPS, 9-1-1, and you

Kids, don't prank call 9-1-1. Seriously. We have enough trouble making sure the people who really need emergency services get them, and the dispatchers are already working hard enough that extra calls really are harmful to the community.

That said, this recent Dane County press release certainly grabbed my attention:
At approximately 2:30 am, Dane County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to an area east of 2349 Williams Point Drive, in the Town of Pleasant Springs, for a 9-1-1 hang up call from an unsubscribed cellular telephone. Unsubscribed cellular telephones can still dial 9-1-1, but can not be called back. Because the location of the 9-1-1 hang up could not be pinpointed, an extensive search of the area was conducted by deputies, with the assistance of the Stoughton Police Department.

With the help of the 9-1-1 Center providing latitude and longitude coordinates, the on-scene Sheriff's Office Sergeant was able to input the coordinates into the GPS program on his squad computer and narrow the search to 300 feet. Deputies were then able to locate two prank callers who were staying in the group campground at Lake Kegonsa State Park. A chaperone with the group discovered the students misusing the cellular telephone and placed a call to the 9-1-1 Center as the deputies were arriving in the campground.

The two pranksters, ages 12 and 13, were part of a group of Madison School District students participating in a camping trip at the park. Charges of False Reports to the 911 System were referred on the two juveniles, who were then released to the chaperone. The two also admitted to making an earlier prank call at 7:25 pm, on Tuesday, June 3, 2008. Deputies, who do not have the GPS capabilities in their individual squads, were dispatched to this earlier call, but were unable to locate the caller, or anyone in need of assistance.
So, the 9-1-1 Center was able to provide latitude and longitude, and the Sergeant was able to punch them into his on -oard computer's GPS system to pinpoint the location of the call to within 300 feet?


It's also worth noting that, apparently, deputies don't have GPS capabilities in their squad cars, only, if I'm reading this right, the Sergeant. Might this be something that could be easily corrected? As far as I'm aware, all squad cars are equipped with a police-specific laptop. I'm sure getting GPS installed wouldn't be a huge hassle, and even if it was, wouldn't it be worth it?

I'm also curious as to exactly how long this ability to track coordinates between the 9-1-1 Center and police has existed. Might that not have been useful in the case of the Brittany Zimmermann call? While we're at it, I'm still waiting to find out how police were able to use a cell phone to locate the body of Kelly Nolan.

Unfortunately, even after everything that's happened, nobody's talking.

Meanwhile, the Dane County Board's Executive Committee just approved the second audit in five years of the 9-1-1 Center. This despite the fact that recommendations from the last audit have not been fully implemented, and a $450,000 data collection system installed two years ago to monitor how well the center is functioning is only just now being used.

How any of this makes sense is beyond me.

(photo from PNLH)


George H. said...

Hmm. Consider this, also, from the Baraboo News Republic about a recent domestic disturbance call that was traced:

Dispatcher, deputy help get woman out of alarming situation

By Jennifer McBride

A Baraboo area woman was unharmed after a scary situation Tuesday evening was resolved, thanks to quick action by a Sauk County dispatcher and deputy.

A cell phone call came into the 911 center Tuesday night, but there was nothing on the other end when the dispatcher took the call. Dispatcher Scott Simonds was able to get a callback number, but when he called it went directly to voicemail. He then used the mapping program at the 911 center and determined the call came from a house off Highway 33, on Johnson Road, Sauk County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Chip Meister said.

When deputy Matt Burch got to the house, he found that there had been a domestic disturbance. The female victim had tried to call 911 but a male had smashed the phone before she could call. The landline phone had been pulled out of the wall, and the man was holding her and not allowing her to leave the residence, Meister said. However, the woman was able to call 911 on the man's cell phone while he was distracted and hung up quickly, "hoping we would find her," Meister said.

When Burch arrived, the man acted as if nothing had happened. Burch did not take things at face value and investigated the situation, which led to the arrest of the male subject, Meister said.

"I thought both Scott and Matt did an excellent job investigating what sounded like an accidental 911 disconnect," he said. "However, it just goes to show that the extra effort put forth by these two resulted in us intervening in a domestic situation."

The 36-year-old male was arrested for disorderly conduct under the domestic abuse statute and criminal damage to property under the domestic dispute statute, Meister said.

Dane County's 911 center has been under fire lately as a homicide victim dialed for help before she was murdered in April. The Sauk County team followed department policy, Meister said.

Burch and Simonds could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Ben Masel said...

Within 300 feet in the country is visually searchable. Not quite so doable downtown.

The Lost Albatross