By Daniel Silliman
Jonesboro police officers noticed an immediate improvement when their radio traffic was switched to a less-crowded channel at the county police department Jan. 1.
"There's a lot more airspace," said Jonesboro Police Department Maj. Brad Johnson. "Now we're not interrupting [the Clayton County Police Officer's radio traffic]. It's a huge benefit, already. My guys don't have to wait to go on the air."
At 7 a.m., Jan 1, Clayton County Police Department Maj. Tom Israel moved the radio dispatches for the Jonesboro Police Department and the county's animal control, code enforcement, special operations and detective's divisions onto a relatively-unused radio frequency.
For more than two decades, the county and city officers' radio traffic had been mostly routed through two dispatchers on two radio frequencies. Those frequencies were divided regionally, so channel two serves the southern half of the county and channel three serves the northern half.
A separate channel -- channel one -- was a "utility tactical channel," used for special operations -- roadblocks, drug busts, bomb squad calls, dedicated patrols -- and emergencies.
Jonesboro, using the county's 911 call center and radio dispatchers, was previously assigned to radio channel two, along with all of the county's officers on the southern side. Increasing call volumes, however, created problems for the city's police.
"The county has so much going on, so much more than Jonesboro," Johnson said. "You don't want to call in and check a tag for a traffic stop while the county police are on there trying to catch an armed robber."
Moving the Jonesboro police, along with the four county police divisions, to channel one, helped the county by relieving the burden on dispatchers, Israel said.
"The move was based upon call volume," the county police major said. "All calls for district two went through one operator. We're taking in over 1,000 calls per eight-hour shift, so this was a way of relieving my shift officers. Any time you can take five components off of one dispatcher, it's a relief."
Israel said he knew something needed to be done when he was first placed in charge of the communication center in August and listened to the volume of 911 calls and police radio chatter in the county. The law enforcement airwaves were crowded enough, he said, that he had to worry about officers' safety.
"When you look at officer safety, not just for the city, but for the county too, you have to have the radio traffic broken down to the point that an officer can get on the radio if they need to," Israel said.
The department was also able to make the move earlier this week, without losing the tactical and emergency channel. If the channel is needed for that sort of situation, a communications center supervisor will shift the Jonesboro, code enforcement, animal control, special operations and detectives' radio traffic back to the other two frequencies, Israel said.
"It was beneficial to the county and us," Johnson said. "It volumes better. My men are tickled and I'm tickled."