As of today the Niagara County Sheriff’s 911 center, following other counties statewide in a cost-saving and efficiency effort, will be dispatching calls for the State Police stations in both Lockport and the Town of Niagara, and state troopers assigned to those stations will be switched to the Sheriff’s Office police radio frequency as their primarily channel, Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour and Undersheriff Michael J. Filicetti said Thursday.
All 911 calls made in Niagara County, except for those in the cities of Niagara Falls and Lockport, were already received at the Sheriff’s 911 Center in Lockport, they said.
Lockport City Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said that “for the foreseeable future” both his department and the Niagara Falls City Police Department will continue to handle their own 911 calls.
Voutour said of the 911 shift, “The partnership with the State Police comes at a time when governments are being asked to cut expenses and share services, and it just makes sense to combine dispatching into one central location where future equipment and resources can be dedicated to a single site.”
State Police Captain Craig Hanesworth said of the 911 transfer “I believe that this consolidation of dispatch services provides the citizens of Niagara County with the best in police service and response times, while also providing for an increase in the safety of our officers.”
“In addition,” Hanesworth said, “this consolidation allows us to reassign troopers to road patrol functions who would have otherwise been delegated to dispatch and clerical administrative functions, and this move should help increase police coverage and response times in the county.”
State Police stations statewide are engaged in similar 911 deals with county governments, depending on local budgetary and available technology.
Voutour said staff at the Lockport and Town of Niagara stations from now on will handle non-emergency business from persons calling (716) 434-5589. He said there will be an emergency call box at the front door of the State Police Lockport zone headquarters for citizens who arrive there with an emergency. That call box will ring the 911 Center of the Sheriff’s Office, and the closet available police car will be dispatched to deal with that situation, he said.
The Niagara County Public Safety Training Center, which houses the Sheriff’s 911 center, was funded by the Niagara County Legislature in January 2001 with the goal at that time to have one consolidated dispatch center serving all county residents, Voutour said.
Since 2007 the Sheriff’s Office has been handling dispatch functions for sheriff’s patrols, all county, town and village police department, the City of North Tonawanda police and fire departments and all of the county’s volunteer fire and ambulance services, he said.
The Sheriff’s 911 Center has 30 civilian dispatchers, with each shift staffed with four to six dispatchers. The sheriff said he was proud of the fact that on April 5, 2011 the Niagara County Sheriff’s 911 Center received full 911 accreditation status from New York State.
“Our dispatchers have the highest level of training available and our center is in compliance with the most stringent requirements for emergency dispatch set force by New York State,” Voutour said.
Currently, the sheriff said, his center is getting a full upgrade in radios and towers for communication to comply with federal mandates for narrow-band broadcasting under a $10 million project being handled by the Motorola company to narrow current bandwidth for police communications to free up additional spectrum for first responders and private industry.
Voutour said that bandwidth project has a completion target date of August 2014. He said his office recently received a $750,000 state grant to upgrade computer-aided dispatch for police and fire so that all the emergency responders using the dispatch center will share the same information platform.