AUSTIN (KXAN) — In need of at least 50 employees, Austin Police Department’s 911 center is struggling to keep up with calls for service.
“It is crucial to be able to have that 911 service,” said John Bumgardner, who recently called 911 when he spotted someone trying to break into his home. “I was lucky they responded so quickly.”
But staffing issues continue to be a problem at the 911 center, especially when it comes to 311 customer service requests. These are non-emergency calls.
“We were holding about 1,300 customer service requests in the queue,” said Lt. Ken Murphy, head of APD’s communication division.
In a few months, his operators could get some help from artificial intelligence.
“The AI-integrated technology is really a virtual officer,” said Murphy.
When someone makes a call it will ask them what they need.
“Say it is a theft of a vehicle,” said Murphy. “The AI will then ask what type of vehicle was it? What is the make? What is the model? What is the color? Where was it located?”
An AI officer could help streamline the process and help officers get caught up.
“We used to have eight 911 operators who worked solely as non-emergency operators responding to these 311 customer services requests,” said Murphy.
That number is down to one; sometimes they bring in administrative assistants and light duty officers to help, but it’s hard to get ahead.
“Everything an officer would be able to ask, this AI allegedly has the capability to ask those same questions,” said Murphy.
The artificial intelligence will also be able to take reports and communicate in 16 different languages.
The AI is expected to be implemented in the next 90 to 120 days.
Murphy said they will still need people to validate the reports, but it should help with the backlog.