When a government plan promises to be more efficient and less costly — while at the same time holding out the possibility of saving lives — we take notice.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri wants all 24 municipalities in Pinellas County to be part of a regional 911 communications system to be housed in the new Public Safety Complex being built in Largo. The municipalities should agree to the plan.
As it now stands a caller who dials 911 anywhere in Pinellas County speaks to a dispatcher at the county’s emergency center in downtown Clearwater. If the emergency involves a criminal matter and originated in St. Petersburg, Clearwater or other cities with police forces that maintain dispatch centers, the 911 call is transferred to the city police station.
It can result in the caller having to explain the emergency twice. That’s unacceptable.
Cities can eliminate that redundancy, and save tax dollars, by stationing their dispatchers at a regional communications center.
The sheriff’s office already dispatches 911 calls for a majority of the 24 municipalities in Pinellas. But the larger cities maintain their own centers. Dismantling those and joining the sheriff’s office center raises various concerns for the cities. For instance, Pinellas Park recently invested $2 million to upgrade its dispatch system. It also represents a loss of internal control over a critical police function.
But the savings in manpower, along with reducing the need to transfer 911 calls, are benefits that trump those concerns.
Gaultieri has been pushing for the regional system for several years. He thinks he has a good chance of winning over most of the larger municipalities this time around. We hope he is right.