Longboat weighs 911 dispatch switch to Sarasota County

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A major change in control and cost of dispatching Longboat Key’s 911 emergency services is under review.

The change was prompted by a one-time offer from Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office to take over police dispatch duties for Longboat Key as well as Venice and North Port if the municipalities agree.

The proposal has prompted Police Chief Pete Cumming to evaluate the economic cost as well as preserving Longboat Key’s level of service. Cumming said that today residents enjoy a level of service in its police department that is second to none. He said that his primary concern to assure residents and visitors that they will receive just that going forward.

Other dispatchers have expressed concern regarding the larger number of cell phone calls, which currently don’t give the dispatcher an automatic location on the caller like a landline, and therefore require the dispatcher to be familiar with the area the caller is calling from so they can assist in locating the caller who may be disoriented in their surroundings for various reasons.

In the financial equation, Longboat Key currently employs five full-time dispatchers, and the county has not defined a direct cost, if any, to Longboat Key if it absorbs the service in its new emergency response center.

Currently Longboat Key’s police and fire calls are initially handled by the 911 center in Manatee County with police calls being transferred to Longboat Key.

Part of the concern expressed by some Longboat Key Police Department members is that currently Longboat Key will dispatch an officer for events and situations that the county would likely not respond to at all or in such a timely manner. Many of Longboat Key’s calls are for citizen aid or suspicious circumstances where no crime or threat is apparent. It is this level of service the Longboat community has grown accustomed to, has been the sentiment.

“Our system is not broke, and it works great,” said Cumming.

Town Manager David Bullock said that he met with Sarasota County earlier in the week, and they provided additional information, which was useful. Bullock said he will take the item to a commission workshop to see if the board wants to proceed “and I will recommend they do.” He said he would then sit down with both Sarasota and Manatee Counties and do detailed due diligence. Bullock said the level of service will be a major consideration in the decision.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office dispatch operates in a 911 center inside the county administration building located on Ringling Boulevard in Sarasota, which handles emergency calls for Sarasota Police Department and Sarasota County, as well as municipal and volunteer fire departments.

The County will be building a more hurricane resistant 911 center in 2015 to be located at Cattlemen Road and Porter Way.

The deadline for the town to decide if they would like to opt in on the 911 outsourcing is May 19.

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1 Response for “Longboat weighs 911 dispatch switch to Sarasota County”

  1. William Kary says:

    “Other dispatchers have expressed concern regarding the larger number of cell phone calls…” That’s a great concept assuming one has “working” cell service at any specific location.

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