Lacombe residents are already seeing the benefits of a new police dispatch centre.
Officers have shaved valuable minutes off the time it takes to respond to calls for help since police dispatch was taken over locally in mid-November. Previously, 911 calls were routed through an RCMP dispatch centre in Red Deer, and then to Lacombe, a process that was proving cumbersome.
Lacombe Police Service acting Police Chief Lorne Blumhagen said the switch-over went smoothly, and the dispatch centre has shown its worth.
“Within days of implementing the system … (the community) was quite impressed with the response time for a few calls that came in,” said Blumhagen on Thursday, at the official opening of his force’s new $8.7-million station.
A number of times officers arrived on scene when the caller was still on the phone, or had just hung up, he said.
That’s a big improvement over the average response time of 13:24 minutes previously for the 18-officer force. A 15-minute lag time was not unusual, obviously a concern in a job where minutes can make a big difference.
Being able to arrive on scene also means there is a much better chance of catching criminals red-handed.
“Our chances of doing that are definitely better than they were before.”
Lacombe has a support staff of seven, some of whom rotate through dispatch to provide 24-hour coverage. Most of the staff already had dispatching experience and were keen to take on those duties in Lacombe.
The small force is also making its mark as the first municipal police department to use the Alberta First Responders Radio System. It is designed to improve communications with other emergency first responders and disaster management agencies.
“That system enables us to not only provide police radio delivery but also the capacity to communicate in any type of major disaster scenario,” he said.
Lacombe Police Service’s most visible upgrade is its new 16,000-square-foot station on Wolf Creek Drive east of Hwy 2A. It was officially opened on Thursday with Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley and other local dignitaries in attendance.
The station gives the department a spacious modern facility and replaces an aging building where cell blocks didn’t meet provincial standards.
The station also provides a lot more space for officers to do their work along with better information technology.