You’re safer now that the payphones are gone. Here’s why.

There was a time when they were everywhere. You couldn’t walk more than 30 feet in New York City without walking past one. Entire generations grew up using them. However, on May 23, 2022, the last public payphone in America’s most populous city was removed. Gone the way of the horse and buggy, the city has decided to retire the last of the 30,000-odd payphones that once dotted New York’s dense network of sidewalks. City officials cited a need for digital innovation, as workers removed the last remaining payphone.

And this is indeed a sign of the times.

New Orleans, USA - Dec 4, 2017: Public phone booth that has been vandalized and covered with graffiti; along Bourbon Street in the French Quarter area. People in the background.

These days, phone calls are a dreadfully inefficient way to communicate.  With 85% of American adults owning a smartphone and another 12% owning a cell phone, people can now send messages through mobile apps or text messages far more quickly than any voice call could ever do.

This means that people are not only more connected than ever before, but they are also much more reliant on the convenience, privacy, and sense of security their personal device provides. Getting rid of payphones is a visible reminder why it makes sense to transition away from outdated technology when it comes to public safety and security.

Voice-only phone have their drawbacks

Think about how people might currently report safety incidents they happen to observe, such as suspicious activity, disruptive behavior, or vandalism. Using a phone call can be a lot of work for both the caller and the organization receiving the call.

For starters, the caller must know the specific number to call, which can be hard to remember in the moment. And in some cases, the way a 9-1-1 call is routed may lead to confusion between different jurisdictions or towns about who will respond. Then, once the call is placed, the caller then has to endure an indeterminate wait/hold time, during which they may lose patience or be unable to stay on the line.  Once a dispatcher answers and says you are on a recorded line you immediately feel “in it,” perhaps more than you want to be.  The caller must then verbally describe the problem, location, and the concerning conditions or perpetrator(s). Finally, the cost and inconvenience of transcribing a phone call into a database is “another task” that may let details fall through the cracks.

With all this, it’s easy to see why many people are reluctant to make 911 calls unless they’re sure there is an actual emergency. If a situation arises whereby someone acts in an anti-social manner but there is not yet an emergency, some will just walk on by. However, there is another way people can actively help keep their communities safer while ensuring their own safety at the same time.

Enabling people to report problems on their own terms

ELERTS makes an incident reporting platform for transit agencies and airports that allows everyday people to report problems quickly and discreetly with their mobile phone. Participating transit agencies or airports can offer their riders a free mobile app, as well as text-a-tip, QR codes and a web-form for submitting reports from any Internet-connected device.

Incident reports sent via ELERTS are documented automatically. Incoming reports are immediately sent to the appropriate authorities for action. ELERTS can also geo-locate the incident, so dispatchers know exactly where to send help. Reports may be sent anonymously, and the app even disables the flash on a user’s phone so that photos can be taken more safely and discreetly.

ELERTS engages passengers and employees in keeping their communities safe without putting themselves in harm’s way. ELERTS is changing the way people think about public safety, and making the world a safer place

ELERTS is at the forefront of digital evolution

Technology has transitioned us from horse and buggy to automobile and airplane, from public payphone to smartphone technology … and ELERTS. Get in touch with the team at ELERTS and find out how crowdsourcing your safety and security can have a positive impact on your organization and your customers.