Crime victims turning to cell phones for 911 calls

Police say they get 911 calls, photos and videos from cell phone users.
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While technology can make our lives easier, it can also make our neighborhoods a safer place to be.

Laura Kendrick is among the incredible number of people who have used their cell phones to report a crime.

"Somebody broke into my house and assaulted me and I needed to call 911," Kendrick said.

Just like Laura, more people rely on their cell phones, not just to manage their lives, but also as a safety tool.

"I have it close by in the middle of the night, or in case someone needs to get in touch with me if they have an emergency on their end," said Natasha O'Neill.

According to a study at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the increase in cell phones can be linked to a decrease in crime.

At The Julian Center, an Indianapolis women's shelter, you can donate your old cell phone. The phones are recycled and issued to female victims of domestic violence, putting 911 at their fingertips.

"It does give them courage. It's like having a shield in their pocket when they have that phone," said Melissa Pershing, executive director of The Julian Center.

The University of Pennsylvania study highlights how people use cell phones when they are close to an encounter with a criminal. The study also looks at how cell phones allow for quicker reporting of crimes and real-time, play-by-play details about the crime.

Details about crimes before or as they happen are extremely important to the folks who work in 911 call centers. Most of the calls come from cell phones.

Cell phones users not only give 911 dispatchers insight to crimes in progress, but they can serve as a deterrent even before a crime happens.

"It's right there, totally accessible, something that we can respond to quickly, confirm the address and get right to the help," said 911 dispatcher Michael Metzler.

The study also shows more cell phone users are providing evidence like video, pictures and even text messages to help prosecute criminals.