Bowie closer to approving non-emergency call center -- Gazette.Net







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Morning, noon or midnight, residents could soon have more access to Bowie’s Police Department 24-hours a day as city officials showed support to pay for a new call center that could decrease response times to non-life-threatening calls.

“I think they see that we are on a good path to improve services and plug some needed holes,” Bowie police chief John Nesky said. “It is just a matter of providing better service on our end.”

City Council members showed support for the call center during Tuesday’s budget work session. The center, which could cost about $500,000 a year to run, would directly connect Bowie residents to the Bowie Police Department and other city services, officials said.

Residents have said this would be a helpful tool, as non-emergency calls for law enforcement are filtered through Prince George’s County’s non-emergency system that is run by its 911 call takers. The county has other non-emergency numbers, such as 311, but some residents have said they run into problems when calling the law enforcement non-emergency line.

Resident Peggy Holder said her neighborhood used to have issues with suspected drug activity and she hopes the new call center will help with response times.

“The response could be anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour,” Holder said. “I think you will get, for non-emergency issues, you would a get quicker response.”

The call center also will serve as a connector for city services, such as reporting downed trees or power lines, Nesky said.

It also will allow residents to access police administrative services 24 hours a day. So if someone wants to pay that speeding ticket late at night, they could, said Dwayne Preston, Bowie deputy police chief.

The proposed budget, which includes the money for 10 people to field calls and telephone equipment, will be voted on May 19.

Officials said they hope the call center could be opened by June 30, 2015.

The center is part of the Bowie Police Department’s new five year plan, which lays out the pathway of growth for the department, Nesky said. The plan also requests an increase in police officer staff capacity from 57 to 69, Nesky said. The department requested four new officers for the next city’s budget, he said.

Resident Jeff Schumacher said he initially didn’t approve of the city building a police department because he didn’t think the city needed it.

But after watching the department’s growth since its creation in 2006, Schumacher’s said his views have changed and welcomes the idea of the call center.

“I think they do a great job,” Schumacher said. “They have been a great asset to the city and are well worth the investment.”