He says the technology that Houston has now is not in wide use, despite the fact that many states have been collecting a special tax from cell phone users every month, specifically to fix this 911 cell phone gap.
"We found that across the country there are so many states that have been building up a 911 wireless fund, and yet now we find that when the technology is available, the money's not there," Melcher said.
New York is one of the states using part of its 911 fund for other purposes. New York State Assemblyman David Koon, whose daughter Jenny was carjacked in 1993, says he wants it to stop. Although Koon's daughter called 911 from her car phone, the technology to locate her was not yet available.
"Jenny was eventually shot 3 times and killed, and there is no reason in today's world, with technology we have today that any other life should be lost," Koon said.
Cell Phone Taxes Shifted
Nationwide, 41 states charge cell phone users a tax specifically to pay for better 911, but public safety organizations and cell phone industry trade groups say 11 of those states have raided nearly half a billion dollars from those funds and used it for other expenses.
"Not spending the money on 911 wireless technology means we can't find you, and if we can't find you we can't save you," Melcher said. "So what's really at stake here is human life and property."
Arizona's 37-cent tax on cell phone users helped create a $29 million 911 fund, but state legislators have used half of it for other purposes. State Sen. Bob Burns said state lawmakers shifted the funds to plug up a $500 million budget deficit.
Although he would like to see the state shift the money back at some point in the future, he contends that for now, much of the state isn't technologically ready for the 911 upgrades anyway
"I don't think that people in our state who are in need of health care and education and other things that are included in this spending that we are doing now would have a real strong problem with that," Burns said. "I have a problem with it myself, but these are not normal times. I mean, we are in a budget crisis."
‘Lives Will Be Lost’
Debbie Pedigo disagreed strongly.
"That is terribly wrong," she said. "That should not be. It's a shame that we have people that can do that and live with themselves. You know my conscience wouldn't let me live with that."
Melcher says there are national security issues at stake, too. In the event of another terror attack, cell phones and 911 could be an early warning system.
"So it's very important that we know where they are and we know how to patch them through to the appropriate authorities to meet that kind of response," Melcher said.
"If they don't implement this, lives will be lost," Debbie Pedago said. "That's a fact. It will happen."