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Building a 3-1-1 System for Non-Emergency Calls: A Case Study of the City of Austin Police Department

NCJ Number
Shellie E. Solomon; Craig D. Uchida
Date Published
June 2004
117 pages
This report documents how the Austin Police Department (Texas) identified the need for a 3-1-1 system (phone number for non-emergency requests for public service and information), designed and procured the system, and marketed it to the citizens.
In Austin, 9-1-1 call volumes were increasing faster than the city's population, and existing technology and staff levels could not support the increasing call load. The Austin Police Department (APD) concluded that 40-50 percent of the 9-1-1 calls were either for police non-emergencies or situations that were not appropriate for police, fire, or rescue operations. This was particularly true for citywide crisis situations, such as weather emergencies. The 3-1-1 calling system was developed to take such calls to relieve the 9-1-1 system. APD's implementation of 3-1-1 focused on developing highly trained and skilled call-takers, building critical partnerships, and changing public perceptions of 9-1-1. APD assured 3-1-1 callers that the staff were cross-trained as 9-1-1 call-takers who are capable of handling potential emergencies. Call-takers have been provided with advanced technological tools to enable the resolution of caller issues in an effective and efficient manner. Technology partners built the tools for call-takers, and civic and community leaders notified the public of the upcoming service and the need for the service. In marketing the new system, the APD explained the problems of overtaxing 9-1-1 and provided an alternative, as the APD encouraged citizens to continue to partner with the department to create safer neighborhoods by using 3-1-1 to report non-emergency public safety concerns. The 3-1-1 system began operating on September 17, 2001. Although calls to APD increased during the period following September 11th and the subsequent anthrax scare, calls to the 9-1-1 center decreased as non-emergency calls were taken by the 3-1-1 system, thus confirming the need for and the anticipated impact of such a system. 19 notes and a glossary of terms