New technology adopted by Owensboro-Daviess County 911 Dispatch enables people to send videos and photos from smartphones directly to dispatchers.
City County’s 911 director Paul Nave said the technology could help emergency forces prepare their response to incidents, and the system could also be used to solve crimes.
Last year, US $ 10,000 was made available in the control center’s budget to sign a two-year contract for the 911eye system. The dispatch center put the system into operation at the end of last year.
Nave said he wants people to be comfortable with the technology that doesn’t take personal information like photos, videos, or contacts from a phone that is using the service.
“We’ll be using that more and more,” said Nave. “Don’t be alarmed if we send you a link” to connect to the service, he said.
The “911eye” system works when a dispatcher sends a link to a person who calls the 911 emergency number. When the person opens the link on their smartphone, the system activates the phone’s camera and can record videos or photos as the caller wishes.
Nave said the video or photos captured through the link will be sent to the control center where they can be stored as evidence or used to assist emergency responders.
The video and photos are not saved on the phone, Nave said. The connection with Dispatch is lost if the caller disconnects.
When asked if the system caused privacy issues, Nave said that the system will be disconnected if it stops providing useful information about the incident that triggered the call to 911. The system is said to be “used when it makes a difference to the officer”. ,” he said.
When asked about other privacy concerns, Daviess County Attorney Claud Porter said privacy is not an issue when a person is outdoors and clearly visible even in their own yard.
“When I’m in my garden and you are in your garden … If I can see you, I can take a picture,” Porter said. “There is no prohibition against it.”
Privacy is also not expected when driving, Porter said.
“There’s no privacy issue (with) taking a picture of your driving behavior” or taking a picture of a license plate, he said.
One person cannot record video inside someone else’s house and cannot go to another person’s property to take video or take photos.
If a video shows a background image of a person in a house who appears to be using drugs, that video could prompt police to monitor the house for further signs of drug activity, Porter said. But the video alone wouldn’t be enough to make an arrest, Porter said.
Commonwealth Prosecutor Bruce Kuegel hypothetically said that if a person who was not part of the original incident was smoking marijuana in the background, that person would first have to be met by an officer who would have to find the person with an illegal substance in order to blame she of a crime. Otherwise, the person would be suspected of smoking a legal substance, he said.
However, if the video captures an act of violence in the background, the video could be used as evidence, said Kügel.
A video taping something like a muzzle flash from a house would trigger a police investigation, as would a phone call from someone reporting a suspected muzzle flash, Porter said.
Owensboro Police Department Public Information Officer Officer Andrew Boggess said, “It’s not much different than someone taking a picture and showing it to us.”
Nave said people shouldn’t be suspicious of using the system.
“We have had a few cases where people hesitate because they don’t understand how to use it,” he said. But people agreed to use the system once the dispatchers explained how it works.
The system recorded at least one incident in real time.
“We had a suspect who was in people’s yards searching mailboxes,” videotaped with 911eye, Nave said. Additionally, 911eye was used in an incident where horses escaped from a barn to identify the likely owner.
“I spoke to the fire department” to stream the video to fire departments going to an incident site, Nave said. “We can send a live image to the chief of operations … (and) he can decide before you arrive whether you need additional resources.”
The technology “is just the tip of things to come in the future” with the next generation 911, said Nave. For example, devices like pacemakers will one day use NG911 to automatically contact shipping if the device is not working properly, he said.
“I am happy about such things that can save lives without human intervention.”
Boggess said the system wasn’t used all the time.
“I don’t think we want to use it for every emergency call,” said Boggess. The system would be used when the incident is “slightly higher (where) we might want to see a video.
“There is the potential to save us time” when we answer calls, Boggess said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse