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911 dispatch – the next go-to service for privatization?

As long as the pros outweigh the cons, more towns may look to the privatization of their 911 dispatch services in order to improve output and cut costs.

Police car - emergency concept image
BCFC, ThinkStock

It’s another avenue to help towns balance the books as they face rising healthcare expenses and other obligations.

Lawrence Township became the first New Jersey municipality to make the move in early 2013. According to Mayor Cathleen Lewis, her town may see cost savings over time, but the main reason for the switch was to get more officers on the street.

“Even though we had enough dispatchers on paper, it always ended up that we needed to have a police officer there who could help to cover if there was heavy volume, if someone called out sick,” Lewis said. “Oftentimes we were using police officers for dispatch when we really need to have our police officers to be able to do law enforcement duties.”

And so far, it seems, privatization is doing its job. In the past year, Lawrence has seen a 15 percent drop in crime.

“The partnership we have with IXP has worked out great,” Lewis added. “And I don’t think most residents would know the difference between when IXP answers and when our old dispatch answered.”

Officials in Camden decided on Friday against the privatization of its 911 dispatch. Business Administrator Robert Corrales said they rejected two outside bids after a review showed no significant cost savings.

“As a government, we want to be responsible with the taxpayers’ money,” Corrales said.

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