State requiring 50 percent reduction in 911 call centers
The city of East St. Louis will no longer operate its own 911 answering center after merging with St. Clair County's emergency telephone services, according to St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency Director Herb Simmons.
East St. Louis operated its own 911 call center, known as a public-safety answering point, until March 19, when it merged with the county's program. St. Clair County has four answering points, including the center in East St. Louis. There are two centers in Belleville and one in O'Fallon.
The county acquired the East St. Louis center, now known as CENCOM West, after the city expressed concerns about the cost of operating the system, Simmons said. Outdated equipment needed to be replaced and expanded, and the building needed renovation, chores the county recently completed.
The county has applied for reimbursement from the state for the renovations, Simmons said. The estimated cost of construction was $40,000, according to county records. The state paid $731,193 to the county for previous consolidation projects. A tax paid by wireless phone users supports ongoing 911 service costs statewide.
No employees lost their jobs as a result of the merger, and residents will not notice a difference in service, Simmons said.
The Metro East Police District Commission praised the merger at a recent meeting, according to a news release from the commission. The commission was established in 2013 to improve cooperation and communication among the East Saint Louis, Washington Park, Alorton and Brooklyn police departments.
Merging the services has been "a priority of the commission for several years," said Coroner Calvin Dye Sr., who is the commission's chairman.
The change makes it easier for police departments to collect and analyze crime as a whole rather than only within their individual departments, according to State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly.
“Manpower is limited and when you don’t even have accurate data to decide where and when to put that manpower the consequences are disastrous, so this is a great step forward by all involved," Kelly said in a prepared statement.
Sheriff Rick Watson also praised the consolidation.
“This is the direction police are going all over the country, and it's producing some great results. There is no reason we can’t do that here," said Watson, who serves as chair of St. Clair County 911/Emergency Telephone System Board.