Harris County, TX (June 27, 2023) — In a unanimous vote on June 27, Harris County commissioners approved $1.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to enhance the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) TeleDeputy Unit.
The TeleDeputy program will have officers who are working overtime handle low-priority, non-urgent 911 calls remotely, rather than sending out the officer to write a report. Currently, these low-priority calls make up nearly 60% of HCSO calls, leading to slower response times across the board. Examples of these Priority 3 & 4 calls include: reporting a crime tip, reporting an abandoned or stalled vehicle, etc.
With this additional support from the TeleDeputy Unit, patrol deputies will be able to more rapidly respond to 911 calls involving urgent, critical matters, including calls related to violent crime and domestic violence. HCSO aims to reduce average response times for Priority 1 calls by nearly 30%, from 14 minutes to 10 minutes, and reduce the response times for family violence calls across all HCSO Districts by 10 minutes because of this TeleDeputy support. In 2022, over 30% percent of investigated homicides involved family violence, so having HCSO officers respond more quickly is a critical win that will result from this TeleDeputy program.
"In life-threatening emergencies, every second counts. I commend the Harris County Sheriff's Office for identifying this solution to better leverage its officers’ time so that we can decrease 911 response times and, ultimately, save lives. We will keep investing in strategies to further improve public safety in Harris County,” said Commissioner Lesley Briones.
Deputies in the HCSO’s five patrol districts are responsible for patrolling nearly 2 million residents living in unincorporated Harris County. As the unincorporated population of Harris County continues to grow, HCSO has seen an increase in the number of calls.
"Investing in the Harris County Sheriff's Office TeleDeputy Program is a commitment to our community's safety. By harnessing the power of technology, we can reduce emergency call response times and prioritize urgent situations,” said Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. “This innovative program empowers community members to teleconference with deputies for certain offenses, providing an additional avenue to report incidents while allowing our dedicated law enforcement professionals to focus on high-priority emergencies.”
“I am proud of Commissioner Lesley Briones for leading and bringing this program to Commissioners Court. This is one of the first programs I implemented when I became a Sheriff in 2009, and the results were positive,” said Commissioner Adrian Garcia. “The main goal is to reduce all calls for service response times by 10 minutes and provide relief to deputies for high-priority incidents, like those involving violence and life-threatening situations.”
Commissioner Briones, who led the effort to bring the funding request to Court, said investing in the TeleDeputy Unit was an important part of addressing the criminal justice from beginning to end.
“By embracing a holistic approach to justice and safety, we can use a range of strategies in our toolkit to better leverage taxpayer dollars to support law enforcement and enhance public safety. We must continue to address the entire spectrum of the criminal justice system,” said Commissioner Briones.
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About Harris County Precinct 4: Precinct 4 is one of four precincts located in Harris County, Texas and boasts a population of more than 1.2 million people. Precinct 4 maintains 1,423 miles of roads and nearly 4 miles of bridges, eight community centers with more than 700,000 visitors annually, and 54 parks, with 13,455 acres of greenspace.