Virtual Dispatch Cuts Policing Costs

Virtual police dispatch is coming to Burlingame, CA, helping that city and neighboring San Mateo to save as much as $700k annually. Inside we link you to comprehensive city planning documents, grand jury studies and details of how savings will be generated.

What Happened?

Burlingame, California, is studying an option to virtualize local police dispatch activities to save money through shared costs with other local communities. The shared services program could save Burlingame $282,000 and nearby San Mateo $459,000 annually in police dispatch expenses.

What Does This Mean?

Virtualization dispatch software would enable one police department to consolidate all dispatch activity among neighboring/partnering municipalities. In essence, one person could oversee a dispatch for multiple cities and towns, from one desktop. The virtualization effort came out of a larger look at a complete police merger in 2011. According to this Fire Services Merger Report written by Citygate Associates for San Mateo and Burlingame, dramatic savings could be achieved:

  • Full Merger of the departments would save a minimum of $1.35M annually
  • Merging dispatch and records alone achieved $742k

Additional findings included:

  • Burlingame had limited staff causing issues in research, records processing and tech support
  • A merger would blend the information culture of both departments, leading to operational improvement
  • Cost sharing alternatives included formulas based on population or calls-for-service, which showed costs within 5% of each other
  • If a merger fell through, Burlingame should civilianize some positions

Recently, neighboring Los Altos, Palo Alto and Mountain View teamed up to implement the Integraph virtual dispatch, which enables all three cities to share one common public safety system. That implementation followed a study by a Santa Clara County Superior Court Grand Jury concluding: “Dispatch consolidation would result in more cost-effective and efficient emergency response and should be implemented.” This document from the City of Palo Alto outlines the entire process the three cities followed, going back to 2007, including specs, timeline, RFQ and RFPs, consulting fees, cost of design phase, size of budget required by all cities for the project and total costs ($3 million).

Acquire The Funding

To implement new IT solutions to boost productivity and efficiency, local leaders should seek out a grant to fund initial adoption costs if the budget does not allow for a large investment. The Technology Grants Guide For Local Government drafted by CDW-G outlines some steps officials can take to make new innovations a reality in their local communities. Once a municipality has selected a grant to apply for, officials should:

  • Draft a proposal discussing how the technology will benefit multiple agencies in the community
  • Describe what serious threats to public safety or other concerns could be mitigated once the technology is in place
  • Provide supplementary information that will intrigue application reviewers and help differentiate the city from other applicants
Other Examples

Gov1 also has written about the benefits of advanced IT solutions for increased data capabilities and public agency efficiency.