Short for money to hire additional police officers and firefighters, Ventura, California will soon charge a monthly fee for emergency calls to help pay for services.
Residents will pay $1.49 a month for emergency service access beginning May 1. If they choose to opt out of the plan, they will be charged $50 for each 911 call. City officials stressed that the action is vital to improving public safety services.
"The problem is we just don't have enough police and firefighters," said City Manager Rick Cole. "Our whole goal is get to a place where we can respond within five minutes to life-threatening emergencies at least 90% of the time."
The fee will be levied on about 158,000 residential and business land lines and cellphones in the city. With exemptions for certain phones, Ventura hopes to raise at least $2.2 million annually to cover much of the cost of operating its 911 dispatch center, and to hire six additional police officers and three firefighters.
Ventura is believed to be the only Southern California city to adopt such a charge. But similar 911 fees are in place in several Northern California communities, including Santa Cruz, San Jose and San Francisco. (info from The Los Angeles Times)