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New phone system up and running
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
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HOLYOKE - A new phone system at the Police Department's Appleton Street headquarters is already up and running, and over the next few weeks will become completely operational.

The new system will switch most phone lines over to the same 322- prefix now used by almost every other non-school department.

The switch will allow many callers to contact departments or individuals directly, without going through the dispatch center.

And that, Police Chief Anthony R. Scott said last week, is the critical result he hoped to achieve.

"With the old system, all telephone calls - whether emergency or not - had to go through the dispatchers, (who) would then direct the call to the proper office," Scott said.

"While receiving incoming calls of an emergency and non-emergency nature, dispatchers were also required to monitor (police) radio communications, dispatch calls-for-service and dispatch medical calls," and to run computer checks on suspects or motor vehicles, Scott said.

"While all of this is in progress, the dispatchers had to monitor the radio to ensure officers' safety and dispatch assistance when needed," he said.

As a result of the new phone numbers, Scott said, "Officers' safety will be enhanced and the public will be better served.. . .This is a win-win situation for the public, officers and dispatchers."

Capt. Frederick J. Seklecki is commander of the department's Technical Services Bureau, which oversees the records and dispatch divisions, as well as computer operations and other technical matters.

In 2004, the police department received more than 62,934 "communication-related" telephone calls, down 6 percent from 2003, according to the department's annual report, which was released last month. Last year, there were 4,534 medical calls, 4,204 alarm calls, 48,530 calls for service, 1,910 reports of motor vehicle accidents, 339 fire calls and 3,417 emergency medical calls on E-911. These figures do not include non-emergency personal calls or calls to various departments not on the list.

The change of phone lines will not affect how emergency phone calls are received by police dispatchers, with "911" still allowing direct contact with the department.

And non-emergency calls to all police offices can still be accessed by dialing (413) 536-6431.

The following new phone numbers, all 413 area code, are now in operation and can be dialed to reach departments directly:

Police Department, general: 322-6900.

Chief's office: 322-6901.

Professional Standards Division: 322-6905.

Field Operations Bureau Commander: 322-6931.

Watch Commander: 322-6930.

Criminal Investigations Bureau commander: 322-6940.

Narcotics-Vice Division: 322-6955.

General Investigations Division: 322-6940.

Technical Services Bureau and Records Division: 322-6975.

Research and Planning Division: 322-6909.

Evidence and Property Division: 322-6961.

Permits Division: 322-6960.

Callers to the (413) 322-6900 general number can follow voice prompts to reach a particular office.

Seklecki said the new lines are on a fiber-optic cable line, called a T-1, that also carries high-speed computer and fax lines. In all, he said, there are 25 new lines carried on the T-1, but that some back-up lines will continue to service the department. Additional direct phone lines will be added if needed, he said.

The switch-over, Seklecki said, "I think is definitely going to be more efficient," especially for the highly-trained dispatchers, who should notice a decrease in the number of non-emergency calls.

"It's a tough job," Seklecki said. "It's a stressful job."
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