Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson announced Jan. 29 that the city hopes to create its own call center. The proposed operation would let residents call in non-emergencies and likely get a quicker response than they do now when calling Prince George’s County’s non-emergency number.
“It is nothing against the county,” Bowie Police Chief John Nesky said. “It is purely a numbers thing. I’ve had someone email me saying they were on hold for an hour.”
Currently, county non-emergency calls are handled by staff who also answer 911 calls, according to Nesky. During busy periods, city residents complain they are being put on hold for long amounts of time — even though their non-emergency matters are largely handled by Bowie police.
The new system, which first needs City Council approval, would allow Bowie residents to contact the city call center staff, who would dispatch the information to Bowie police.
The plan makes sense, but highlights a problem that is likely also being faced by other county residents whose communities may not be able to afford their own call centers. Bowie is planning to pay $500,000 per year for its center.
On the bright side, with Bowie being one of the largest cities in the state (it has an estimated population of about 56,000), having a city call center should lighten the load on county staff and potentially improve service for other county residents.
However, it’s not sufficient to assume call volumes will improve. Prince George’s officials should review the concerns raised by Bowie residents and officials, and look for ways to improve county services — or figure out why the system doesn’t seem to be working for the Bowie community.
If staffing is a problem, perhaps county leaders could work with other municipalities that have police departments to model plans similar to Bowie’s.
In the end, it’s a great opportunity for Bowie to improve service for residents — and for the county to review its own performance.