Crime & Courts

SC will begin upgrading 911 systems to accept text messages, videos and pictures

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South Carolina wants to make calling the police as easy as texting a friend for weekend plans.

Within a few years, SC’s 911 call centers will be fully upgraded to be able to accept text messages, pictures and videos, according to state Revenue and and Fiscal Affairs Executive Director Frank Rainwater.

The internet-based, statewide system will also allow 911 dispatchers to more easily track those who call 911 from a cell phone, Rainwater said.

“Callers, if they’re hiding in a closet, they can text,” Rainwater said. “They can send video as well.”

Once the program is complete, it will link together all 69 911 call centers throughout the state. That way, rural counties will have the same quality of 911 service as urban counties, and other counties will be able to respond to concerns in neighboring counties, Rainwater said.

The system is funded by a $2.33 million federal grant and money from the state’s $.62 monthly 911 cell phone fee, Rainwater said. The project is in the early stage so it is not clear what the final cost will be nor which company will manage the system, said Paul Athey, a division director at the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office.

The timeline for the project is unclear, but it will likely take a year for the vendor (once one is selected) to design the system and an additional two to three years to phase it in at 911 call centers throughout the state, Rainwater said.

“Obviously, it won’t be as simple as turning a light on,” Rainwater said.

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