Some emergency 911 calls made from mobile cell phones in the downtown Los Angeles area began being routed directly to the LAPD Thursday instead of to the California Highway Patrol, police said.
Most 911 calls made on cell phones are answered by CHP dispatchers who transfer the calls to the appropriate agency, which can delay emergency response.
Having Los Angeles police dispatchers answer 911 cell phone calls is expected to help cut emergency response times and provide relief for overburdened CHP dispatchers.
Over the next five weeks, the changeover in the city’s central area will be performed systematically by the cell phone service providers, including Verizon, Cingular, Nextel, Sprint and T-Mobile, police said.
The changeover is to be expanded gradually to cover all of the city by the end of the year.
Medical emergency calls will continue to be transferred immediately to the Los Angeles Fire Department, and 911 cell phone calls from motorists on freeways will still be handled by the CHP, authorities said.
The Los Angeles City Council voted for the change last August. The projected $2 million cost of the change will be covered by a state grant, officials said.
In 2004, the CHP transferred more than 124,000 cell phone calls to the Los Angeles police and fire departments, authorities said.
The LAPD’s 550 911 operators handled more than 3 million emergency calls last year, police said.
Eventually, the LAPD plans to implement a more complicated system that will allow dispatchers to receive a phone number and location of the cell tower, and — through the use of a global positioning system — the exact location where the call was made.