Cameras give dispatchers better look on outside

County Commissioners approve 6 new security devices for 911 Emergency Operations Center

The purchase of six new surveillance cameras for the 911 Emergency Operations Center was unanimously approved Monday by the Bartholomew County Commissioners.

Dispatchers stationed in the basement of the facility at 131 S. Cherry St. will be given the ability to see outside in all four directions, center director Ed Reuter said.

In addition, cameras positioned at two entrances will allow dispatchers to view the faces of people knocking on their doors, Reuter said.

The resolution now available from the two current entrance cameras is so bad that dispatchers cannot tell whether or not an officer is wearing a uniform, the center director said.

Since requests to purchase body cameras for deputies, as well as additional security cameras for the Bartholomew County Courthouse, will remain on hold until August, the commissioners know they might hear criticism concerning Monday’s decision.

But commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said there’s a valid reason why the 911 center’s request can’t wait like the others.

“If somebody did get in the center, we could have our emergency communications compromised,” Kleinhenz said.

Reuter agreed, adding lessons learned from both the 9/11 attack in New York and the 2008 flood in Columbus are that a community becomes paralyzed without emergency communications or a hospital.

The cost to purchase the six cameras will be $13,900. In addition, the county will pay a $110 monthly fee for data storage, the contract states. That storage will allow investigators to see anyone who has been outside the building over the past 30 days, Reuter said.

The money comes from a fund dedicated to center improvements that consists of lease payments paid by Verizon to use the facility’s radio tower, commissioner chairman Carl Lienhoop said.

Dispatchers have experienced a number of unexpected and frightening encounters as they have left work near the intersection of Illinois Avenue and South Cherry Street, center deputy director Julie Pierce said.

For example, a staff member discovered a young person under the influence of drugs hiding under a dispatcher’s car in the middle of the night, Reuter said.

Since that incident a few years ago, concern for safety at the facility, located next to the county’s juvenile detention center, has grown to where one dispatcher often feels they have to accompany another to their vehicle, Pierce said.

Other incidents prompting the camera purchases include a vendor who attempted to use a hacksaw to gain entry, as well as distraught individuals banging on the door who mistakenly believed police officers were stationed inside, Reuter said.

The cameras and storage are being purchased from Security Pros, LLC of Memphis, Indiana, the same company that set up 10 high-resolution cameras in different areas of Columbus in 2014.

Using the same firm could provide an advantage if there is ever a need for dispatchers to connect with the city cameras to monitor events, Reuter said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.