Clayton drops local hot line for 911
The plan to eliminate the town's seven-digit emergency number will cut staff positions
Peggy Lim, Staff Writer
Instead of dialing a seven-digit police hot line, Clayton officials want residents to start routing emergency calls through Johnston County's 911 center, beginning Tuesday.
It won't be difficult for many town transplants to adjust.
"Everywhere we lived before used 911," said Carolyn Allen, 62, who moved to Clayton from Raleigh 13 years ago. It saved you from having to look up another hard-to-remember number, she said.
But the change didn't come without some controversy. The police department currently handles about 25,000 calls to its hot line number (553-4611) a year, said Town Manager Steve Biggs. The switch will eliminate four town staff positions and will close the police station at night.Despite some initial reservations, town council members agreed in June that the county has a better system. Unlike Clayton's system, the county's technology can trace calls back to cell phones or land lines -- an advantage as the town grows. The center also serves most county residents already, except those in the town of Selma. Clayton will pay the county about $100,000 a year for the service.
Clayton Police Chief Gary Ragland said residents will not likely notice major differences in service. The number of police on duty at night - about five - will remain the same. But response times may become faster. Currently, calls from Clayton residents to the 911 center are routed to Clayton dispatchers, who then send out police officers.
Ragland knows not everyone will like having a video camera and a call box replace human dispatchers on duty 24 hours at the Clayton police department.
"Most contact is by telephone calls or officer inquiries, but there will always be somebody who will want to come by to speak with an officer," he said. Sometimes, a victim of domestic violence prefers to go to the police station instead of calling from home. Often, the department is used for custody exchanges, Ragland said.
Currently, people can enter the police department at any hour, speak to a dispatcher behind a bullet-proof window and wait to see an officer in the lobby waiting room.
After the change takes effect Jan. 3, the department's front door will be locked on weekends and from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. weekdays.
Ragland acknowledged that evening hours are when most violent crimes happen, including domestic calls, assaults, larcenies, armed robberies and DWIs. But few walk in after 8 p.m. to file complaints, he said.
Kim Horton, an employee of the Kangaroo Express downtown, will miss the local hot line. She has never called 911, but many times has called the local hot line to threaten drunks into leaving the store. The convenience store has 553-4611 programmed into its speed dial.
"Nothing really happens here -- just your regular old drunk people acting stupid," she said, affectionately calling the store a "family place." "They're like big kids," she said.
"911 ... It's when we really really need [help] ... if somebody were to get hurt or robbed," she said.
Staff writer Peggy Lim can be reached at 836-5799 or firstname.lastname@example.org.