(The Center Square) – An $11.1 million upgrade in North Carolina Highway Patrol infrastructure was funded by the American Rescue Plan Act and an appropriation from the General Assembly.
Calls can be GPS-tracked, enabling faster response by troopers. Leaders of the state police call it a “gamechanger.”
“It’s going to improve public safety and trooper safety, and make sure we’re providing the best services possible,” Capt. Kevin Owens, commander of the highway patrol’s technical services unit, said in a prepared statement.
The new system uses GPS technology to immediately identify a caller’s location and help pinpoint the nearest trooper. The system allows telecommunicators to send details about a call directly to the trooper in real-time, or to others dispatched as backup.
The project started during the pandemic and is ongoing, though the most pertinent features – including the GPS tracking – are now available statewide.
Owens said the new “gamechanger” system saves considerable time, as dispatchers previously had to relay much of the information that’s now transferred in an instant.
“Over the years, we just didn’t have the ability to track a lot of the information we needed,” he said.
“Now when we receive that call, it automatically populates on a map and shows us where you are,” Owens said. “If the call drops, we know this is the area, and we can get some help coming to you.”
Andrea Lowe, a telecommunications center supervisor, noted the advantages of the new system for a staff that handles 1,200 calls a day on average, or more during bad weather.
“When we get a call in from the 911 center, it comes with the caller’s location now, and that way it just cuts down our time on the phone with them, which means they’re getting a quicker response,” Lowe said in department video.
Another advantage for troopers is the new technology provides a more precise location, which Lowe said improves their safety.
“If they should have somebody jump and run, once they get out of the car the GPS tracking switches to their handheld radio,” Lowe said. “So, if they’re in the woods or something, it starts tracking that radio instead of just the car.”
There’s also a distress notification feature, and savings from paperwork on the back end with automatic record keeping. Improving efficiency, Lowe said, is especially important at a time of recruitment struggles with troopers and heavy workloads for telecommunicators.
“This new system will increase our ability to allocate resources appropriately based on where (the call) is and the amount of staff we have on duty on the road,” Lowe said.
Ultimately, in situations where minutes matter, the bottom line is time saved is lives saved.
“For officer safety and for the citizen’s safety, it’s just decreased our response times,” Lowe said.