Roosevelt County now has 911 cell phone tracking system

By Paula Cronic: PNT Staff Writer

Roosevelt County 911 dispatchers now have a new system using global positioning satellite technology (GPS) which allows dispatchers to pinpoint the exact location of a cell phone caller.

Before, Roosevelt County was phase one compliant, which means they were only able to track a caller by the cell tower the caller was using.

Now in phase two compliance the new technology, which cost nearly $500,000, and was funded through the statewide E911 system, can track within a few meters of the caller’s location, according to Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry.

“Basically what happens is if (someone using) a cell phone calls 911, it places that call at the latitude and longitude the cell phone is in, placing it on the map at the exact location that the caller is at,” he said.

Berry performed drive tests where he would go out and make calls to the dispatch from various places in the area. Each time calls were made the dispatchers were able to identify his exact location.

Alltel was used during the drive tests and has become compliant while other wireless carriers are working towards implementing the system. Berry said he hopes to be drive-testing those wireless carriers soon.

The new system will also allow dispatchers to see what jurisdiction a call is coming from. Berry said this way, they can tell if the call is a Dora, Elida or Causey call and they can send the closest officials out in order to get there faster, which according to Berry is the main purpose of the system.

“If we know it’s Elida’s call we can give it to Elida and get help there in a matter of minutes as opposed to a 22-mile response,” he said.

An incident occurred two weeks ago where the new system, had it been available, could have aided in getting a quicker response to the caller.
“There was an accident and the caller said he was outside of Portales, but he actually ended up being on the other side of Elida and Chaves County,” Portales dispatcher Eva McAfoos said.

She said before the new system was installed dispatchers were never unable to locate a caller, it just took more time to figure out where a caller was if the caller was unsure of their location.

The 911 dispatch has three lines available for land callers and two for cell-phone callers.

McAfoos said there has been a great increase of cell-phone made calls to the dispatch and sometimes dispatch will receive between 40 or 50 cell-phone calls per incident when before she would receive only one or two.

Roosevelt County is the eighth county in the state to implement the system.