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Aldermen Setting Tasks for Chicago’s Safety

Alderman knocked the head of the city’s emergency management programs for not doing a better job of publicizing a digital application that would allow citizens to send tips to the police via cellphones.

A recent 2015 budget hearing at City Hall led to scrutiny of the Office of Emergency Management and Communication’s lack of programming, which would allow people in Chicago to text 911 in emergencies fueled by Ald. Ed Burke’s (14th) inquiry into why such a program has yet to be implemented.

Fasces over door to Chicago City Hall.
Fasces over door to Chicago City Hall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Burke asked Gary Schenkel, executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, why programs like TXT2TIP are not being heard of and used in Chicago.

Schenkel did not confirm whether Chicago dispatchers use the texting program, but told Burke that 911 has limited capacity to accept picture text messages.

Burke fired back saying other cities nationwide have the programming and capacity for that type of communication.

“Houston has it, why can’t Chicago?” Burke asked.

Schenkel said that for priority-one level dispatch, the response time averages five minutes and the maximum time for priority one response is 10 minutes.

Burke argued and said this program could be an asset in priority one level emergencies and also help resolve hostage situations.

“I think it’s a good program, but no one ever heard about it; I’ve never heard about it,” Burke said.

Burke questioned his colleagues about their knowledge of the program, which he received head nods from aldermen saying they had never heard of the program either until it was mentioned at their local community policing meetings.

“It’s a fantastic tool, but it’s not much use if people don’t know about it,” said Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd). “If there are resources you are lacking to do your job we want to help you.”

Burke, who is the City Council Committee on Finance chairman, offered financial help from the budget.

“If there’s more money you need to do something then you should tell us,” he said.

Schenkel conceded his defense and said he’d bring up the matter to Police Superintendent Gary F. McCarthy.



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