, Gloucester, MA


October 16, 2013

Editorial: A step rightfully not taken

It’s been four months now since the town of Essex kicked off the new, highly-touted regional emergency dispatch system, based in Middleton and coordinated through the county sheriff’s office.

And it’s encouraging that Essex Police Chief Peter Silva, especially, sees the system as an upgrade in handling calls and dispatching emergency services as needed — while noting that, even with some ongoing glitches, “every week is an improvement.”

But the fact that Essex, Wenham and Middleton remain the only communities that are using the new system to date has to raise questions about the $10 million project’s overall efficiencies — and the fact that calls made to Middleton police the other day didn’t go through the regional system at all, but right to Middleton suggests that there remain more than a few “glitches” overall.

Indeed, one of the ongoing issues still confronting Essex is that the department is not always able to quickly access its own logs — and that can be a problem if local officers have to follow up on a previous incident.

All of this goes to show that, while such a system can work very well for a department such as Essex — through equipment upgrades as much as anything else — it clearly is not a one-size-fits-all system that would work for Gloucester and other communities, even the other towns of Cape Ann.

Sometimes, the most significant steps taken by a city or town are the ones they don’t take at all. And in Gloucester’s case, especially, that appears to be the case with 911 regionalization.

Let’s hope that lesson is not forgotten when any new regionalization push comes calling again.

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