Chicago Becomes First City With Citizens Sending Photos, Videos to 911

Call takers at Chicago's 911 dispatch center won't ask callers whether or not they have any images to send because they don't want to waste time explaining how to transmit a photo, but if a caller brings it up, they'll happily accept one. "No other city does that right now," Jose Santiago, executive director of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communication, told the Chicago Sun-Times, referring to Chicago's willingness to accept photos and videos from callers and distribute them to detectives and first responders.

Santiago is warning Chicagoans not to jeopardize themselves by trying to take pictures of shootings in progress or other violence. A call or text message works just as well in those situations, he said.

All the images received so far have been law-enforcement related, Drew said.

The city's dispatch system already scans for any surveillance cameras within 150 feet of a call. Any real-time video then gets put up on the call taker's screen with a map.

The images from 911 callers will allow authorities to analyze emergencies more objectively, Santiago said.

They also can be used as evidence in a criminal case, he said.

"Callers have a tendency to become confused or excited during an event," Santiago said. "Pictures don't."

But some city officials worry the program won't gain much popularity, pointing to the Txt2Tip initiative that allows people to text-message tips to the police. That program never met the department's expectations.

Read the full story at the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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