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Union County is the first in America to launch innovative new 911 technology allowing citizens to send pictures or video of criminal activity directly to 911 dispatchers via their mobile phones.
The technology will give police officers nearly instant access to pictures or videos of suspects, suspicious vehicles, or even kidnapping victims.
Monday morning at the Union County Government Center, officials showed off the system they've been testing for the past two months.
It was developed by Richard Schaffer, a former FBI agent who retired in North Carolina.
There are ten different incidents a dispatcher could ask a caller for a photo including a hit and run, a crime in progress or kidnapping. The demonstration showed a sample missing person call.
In the demonstration, the Union County dispatcher sent the chief a text with a link.
The chief then sent his photo of a the missing person to that link and then received a text confirming it went through. Afterwards that photo was sent to officers in the field to their phones or their computers in their cars.
"If it meets the criteria of where a photo will help then we will ask them if they have one already or if they could take one in a safe manner," explained Larry Brinker, Union County Emergency Communications Director, "And then we'll be able to put this out into the field."
NexGen Global Technologies pioneered the development of an E9-1-1 Multimedia Communications system that allows the public to send photos, videos and text using their patented Multimedia Incident Retrieval System, (MIRS) to 9-1-1 center personnel for review and dissemination to law enforcement and other first responders within minutes.
It works across all wireless networks and with any mobile phone that can take/send texts or photos.
When someone calls into 911 from their mobile phone, the emergency operator initializes the system that will capture and distribute photos, videos and text sent in from a mobile phone and then sent out to first responders in the field in real time.
Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) and Sheriff Cathey hosted a statewide briefing and demonstration of the new technology on Monday, Dec. 2 at the Union County Government Center in Monroe.
"This is something that will benefit every citizen, as well as every public safety agency," said Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey.
"NextGen represents nearly real-time intelligence and reporting capability," said Union County Chief Deputy Ben Bailey. "This service will enable us to be more effective in the field as a result of the rapid exchange of information."
Right now, Union County is piloting the program. The technology is cloud based meaning no software or hardware was installed.
And no tax payer money was used to fund it and if money is needed Chief Cathey says it will come from their drug confiscation funds.