NYC hot lines accepting videos

September 9, 2008 5:20:03 PM PDT
It's a new era for tipsters as officials announced Tuesday that city hot lines are now able to receive photos and video from computers and cell phones. Callers to the city's 911 and non-emergency hot lines will now be able to send photos and video from computers and cell phones to report crimes and complain about quality-of-life issues like dirty streets, city officials announced Tuesday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the most important thing to do when witnessing a crime or accident is obviously to call 911.

Callers with a cell phone video or photo of a crime also can notify the emergency operator, and a detective with the New York Police Department's Real Time Crime Center will call back to receive the images.

By next year, photos sent by bystanders will be made available to patrol cars in the area. "This technology should put a scare into every would-be criminal, because the chances of getting caught in the act is now better than ever," said Bloomberg.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said major improvements to technology within the department in the past six years have helped reduced crime, which is down more than 3 percent so far this year from last year. More than 12,000 new computers have been installed in precincts around the city, technology in radio cars has been improved and the department is better able to share information.

The city's Crime Stoppers anonymous-tips line should be able to accept images by next year.

"When I returned to the department in 2002, I saw that very little had changed as far as technology. We were still one of the world's leading users of carbon paper and Wite-Out. But that's changed significantly," Kelly said.

While hundreds of cities around the country accept text messages to emergency hot lines, New York is believed to be the first city with the capability to accept images, which may be used as evidence when prosecuting criminals, officials said.

City officials said it's also possible to deliver images anonymously with a few extra steps. Kelly has said he would welcome all images, including videos like the one widely circulated online in July that showed a police officer body-checking a cyclist taking part in a protest ride.

The city's non-emergency hot line, 311, is also now equipped to accept video and photos of everything from graffiti to potholes.

New Yorkers can submit those images through the city's Web site or call the hot line. Bloomberg said it will help residents to better describe some of their quality-of-life woes.

It took about 18 months to develop the image software and cost about $250,000, city officials said. The NYPD gets about 11 million 911 calls annually, and 311 gets about 15 million.

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