FLORENCE — Pinal County residents who can’t call police because of a disability, or for fear suspects will hear them, will be able to send a text to 911, perhaps as soon as mid-July, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors was told Wednesday.
The board approved a contract for the county to receive a state grant of $119,000 to begin “Text to 911.”
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb told the board it’s a program that staff has been working on for a few years. He continued that Robert Woodhull, 911 administrator at the Sheriff’s Office, has done “the lion’s share of the work getting this in place.”
“Text to 911 is not only important for the hearing-impaired, it is also very important for domestic violence victims who can’t pick up the phone and call without being in more danger,” and those being abducted or robbed, Lamb said. The system isn’t just for the Sheriff’s Office, but will be available to every police agency in Pinal County, with the exception of Mammoth and Kearny police and Ak-Chin police.
“We’ve worked on this for probably 3½ years in the Sheriff’s Office,” Woodhull told the board. He said the grant agreement is for five years and he expects it will be renewed after that as well. He said the agreement also excludes the Gila River Indian Community, which will have its own Text to 911 system, “but they’ll be involved when we do all of our training.”
Maricopa, Pima, Gila and Pinal counties will all have Text to 911, “so no matter where you are in the borders of our county, somebody will be able to answer your text to 911,” Woodhull said. He continued there shouldn’t be a need for additional personnel.
Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, said, “I think it’s a genius idea, this is absolutely needed. … Well done, and thank you for being persistent to get it done, Sheriff.”
Supervisors Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, asked how the program will be publicized. Woodhull replied that he hopes the supervisors and others will see the need and help spread the word.
Lamb added the Sheriff’s Office plans to publicize it on Facebook, Nextdoor, the sheriff’s phone app and other forums at no cost to the county. “We’ll do a lot of media to get it out there.”