Chicago 1st to allow 911 cellphone photos

March 15, 2011 at 9:22 PM
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CHICAGO, March 15 (UPI) -- Chicago is the first U.S. city to permit residents to send videos and photos on cellphone 911 calls that may be used as criminal evidence, officials said.

Since September, submitted images have gone to the police department's crime-prevention information center, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday. The images are then reviewed to determine whether first responders should be alerted or be passed along to detectives investigating any alleged crimes, the Sun-Times reported.

Most of the 40 or so images police have received so far show property damage, said Roderick Drew, spokesman for the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communication.

People should not compromise their safety by attempting to photograph violent crimes, but rather should telephone or send a text message, said Jose Santiago, executive director of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communication.

Chicago's dispatch system scans for surveillance cameras within 150 feet of a call. Real-time video then comes up on the call taker's screen with a map. The images help officials assess emergencies more objectively than do phone calls, the newspaper reported.

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

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