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New ways to dial 911 on horizon?

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Albany/HV: New ways to dial 911 on horizon?
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911 centers are about to take a quantum leap in technology. That according to emergency officials in Poughkeepsie for a statewide 911 coordinator conference. YNN's John Wagner has the details.

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- With landlines a relic of the past and smart phones aplenty, the way you dial 911 could shift dramatically. Instead of calls, pictures, video streams, text messages.

"They could be hiding in a closet, maybe somebody is breaking into their house, they could text silently without making any noise and we would get the information, send help and we would be able to communicate back and forth," said Christopher Bodin explaining one important use for texting.

Bodin works as senior dispatcher for Poughkeepsie's 911 center.

"It could be streaming video coming from maybe a convenience store camera from a robbery or a bank during a robbery, really any device that can connect to 911," said John Merklinger, the NYS 911 Coordinators president.

Merklinger says it's even possible that 911 could take in and transmit video of ongoing break-ins to police car laptops.

Within five to seven years, "Next Generation 911" could debut in New York statewide, but its price tag could run above $200 million.

"You see a crime occurring," explains Merklinger, "you take a picture of the suspect with your cell phone, you send that to us, we forward that to the police officer to the computer right in their car and they can drive right past the suspect and get them in custody."

"This is being driven by the public, this is how they communicate today and we need to adapt to that and be prepared for that," said Dana Smith, Dutchess County's emergency response coordinator.

Dutchess County 911 took in more than 145,000 calls last year. That's well over 400 a day. And almost 70 percent came from cell phones.

911 phone fees alone bring in the state about $200 million a year. Emergency officials say that could easily pay for the upgrades. But only about a third of the fees head to help 911 centers and nearly half end up sucked into the state's general fund.

"As far as we're concerned, the state's stealing the money," said Merklinger. "The general public thinks this money is going to help 911 and it's not: and it's the one government service that helps every single constituent.

Dutchess County 911 costs more than $4 million a year to run. State funding provides about $150,000, leaving local taxpayers with the burden.

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