LATEST: Text-to-911 program showing early benefits, county says


In a Wellington home in early August, a woman in her 20s locked herself in a bathroom with her cellphone. 

She began sending text messages to a 911 dispatcher, saying her ex-boyfriend had threatened her and her family. Moments later, when her ex left the home, she ran to safety at a nearby store, where she called police. 

It was the kind of scenario that public-safety officials envisioned when Palm Beach County launched its text-to-911 system in June. 

“We consider the program to be a success so far,” Dan Koenig, the county’s 911 planning coordinator, said last week as the program approached its two-month mark.

RELATED Former cop’s ‘stand your ground’ appeal denied in Corey Jones killing

Since the program’s launch on June 25, 299 text messages had been sent to dispatchers across the county as of Aug. 21, although Koenig noted that figure includes test messages that were used in training. 

The sheriff’s office said that as of Aug. 21, it had received 23 emergency calls that originated as texts since the program’s launch.

According to court documents, it was a text that led deputies to respond to the Wellington domestic call Aug. 3 

Deputies arrested 37-year-old Juan Bixby on charges that include simple domestic battery, domestic battery by strangulation and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. 

Bixby remained custody at the Palm Beach County Jail as of Monday morning.

Koenig said there have been situations where those sending texts should have either have called law enforcement or contacted authorities by other means. Some of the texts were messages from people wanting to send tips to police agencies, he said.

RELATED After shooting, Palm Beach Central cheerleader deals with new normal for high school football

As with phone calls, the text message system should be used only for emergencies, Koenig said, and he recommended that those with tips use either smartphone apps such as the sheriff’s “See Something” program or the Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County website.  

“It is still 911, so it should only be used in emergency cases,” he said of the text-to-911 system. “(It) is still for when you need an immediate response.”

Koenig said phone calls to 911 are still the preferred means of communication, but the text messages allow dispatchers another way to communicate with those who either are deaf or have trouble hearing, who are unable to speak or who find themselves in situations where speaking could put them in danger. 

Officials have cautioned the texting system has limitations. It can only accommodate English speakers and does not accept photos, videos or emojis. In fact, an emoji will discontinue a texting session, officials say. 

The same rules that apply for phone calls apply to text messages. Someone found to be abusing to the text-to-911 system could face a criminal charge, authorities have said.



Next Up in Local

Live Updates: Rally for Puerto Rico at Mar-a-Lago, West Palm
Live Updates: Rally for Puerto Rico at Mar-a-Lago, West Palm

UPDATE 3 p.m.: A line of protesters’ cars from pulled into the area near the Meyer Amphitheater after driving past Mar-a-Lago. Protesters already in the area finished inflating the Baby Trump balloon. <div></div><br><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">And up...
Opera ‘food truck’ and other arts events receive PNC Bank grants
Opera ‘food truck’ and other arts events receive PNC Bank grants

Imagine ordering a taste of opera just as you do a snack from a food truck. In the fall of 2019, Palm Beach Opera plans to unveil Opera a la Cart, pop-up opera shows performed in a truck doubling as a stage at festivals, parks and other venues. The plan calls for a menu of opera excerpts from which audience members can make selections. The truck also...
Alaska man gets a 'pass' after pleading guilty to assaulting woman
Alaska man gets a 'pass' after pleading guilty to assaulting woman

An Alaska man escaped jail time Wednesday after pleading guilty to assaulting a woman who said he sexually assaulted and strangled her until she lost consciousness, KTVA reported. >> Read more trending news  Justin Schneider, 34, of Anchorage, was convicted on four felony charges -- including kidnapping and assault -- and a misdemeanor...
3D-printed gun creator wanted on child sex charge arrested at Taiwan hotel
3D-printed gun creator wanted on child sex charge arrested at Taiwan hotel

The creator of the 3D-printed gun was arrested Friday in Taiwan after being accused of sexual assault in Texas, CNN reported Saturday. >> Read more trending news  A warrant to arrest Cody Wilson, 30, was issued earlier this week after allegations that he had sex with a 16-year-old girl he met on an adult dating site, according to police...
More details released about 2-headed baby snake
More details released about 2-headed baby snake

A state herpetologist released new details about a two-headed baby Eastern copperhead snake found outside a home in Woodbridge, Virginia, WTVR reported. The snake was examined at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. >> Read more trending news  The center received the snake on Sept. 20, according to the center’s website. ...
More Stories