August 28, 2003
The Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) today announced $899,500 in grants to improve 311, non-emergency phone services in three communities. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (NC) will receive $299,500, the City of Columbus Department of Public Safety (OH) will receive $300,000, and the Minneapolis Police Department (MN) will receive $300,000 in COPS funds. The grants will help these communities purchase equipment.
"We are pleased to support the efforts of these communities to implement new 311 systems," said COPS Director Carl R. Peed. "In addition to reducing calls to 911 emergency phone systems, 311 systems encourage better communication between citizens and public safety officials."
After more than 30 years in operation, the 911 emergency response system has become a victim of it's own effectiveness in some communities. According to US News and World Report (June, 1996), an estimated 50 to 90 percent of calls to 911 systems are for non-emergencies, which can cause extended response times to actual calls for emergency service. 311 systems help reduce non-emergency calls to 911 by providing citizens with an easy-to-access alternative for contacting their local law enforcement agency and other municipal service providers regarding non-emergencies.
"When more than half of the 911 calls are for non-emergencies, two things are immediately clear: the system is overburdened and we must provide an alternative for non-emergency calls," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "By providing communities with the resources to implement the 311 system, citizens will be able to contact local law-enforcement and other service providers without unintentionally endangering the safety of those who have a real 911 emergency."
COPS has awarded more than $6 million to support 311 systems since 1997, when the Federal Communications Commission reserved 311 as a national, non-emergency phone number.