Truesee's Daily Wonder

Truesee presents the weird, wild, wacky and world news of the day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

 

Weird 911 calls

911 calls can cross line into wackiness

Drunken dialing, mental confusion, can prompt frivolous calls

911 call center Boynton Beach 911 Communications Supervisor Brian McNevin monitors 911 calls and police and fire department dispatching from his communication terminal. (MARK RANDALL, Sun entinel / September 8, 2010)

 

Robert Nolin, Sun Sentinel 3:21 p.m. EDT, September 23, 2010

 

The voice, gravelly and slightly slurred, came over the 911 line.

"I want to talk to somebody in drug enforcement," it demanded. "This woman, she took my booze from me. She took my bottle of booze and I want it back."

For more than 20 minutes, Ronald Ernest Jones, 60, of Pompano Beach, badgered emergency dispatchers over a claim his landlady had stolen his liquor.

In Delray Beach, Benjamin Dewer, 26, twice called 911 in the early morning hours. "I need a ride and I am hungry," he told dispatchers.

Both cases resulted in arrests for abuse of an emergency line, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. They also represent a perpetual problem that can stem from loneliness, mental confusion, anger or drunken dialing: Sad and wacky calls from folks who risk arrest by dialing 911 when they don't have an emergency.

Such calls may annoy dispatchers, but they are only a small portion of the 240 million 911 calls received nationally each year. The Broward Sheriff's Office fields 2.5 million 911 calls annually, half of those non-emergency ones. In Palm Beach County, the Sheriff's Office handles about 1 million calls a year, and 30 percent to 40 percent are non-emergency ones.

Of those non-emergency calls, officials say, harassing or troublesome calls are a small percentage.

"We do have the frivolous 911 calls: 'I can't find my remote control.' 'Can you tell me when the electricity's going to come back on?' " said Robin Schmidt, communications manager for the Palm Beach Count Sheriff's Office. "Some people just get confused. A lot of them, they are either intoxicated or on drugs."

Others just don't seem to understand the concept of 911: call only in case of emergency. Like the woman who last year called three times to complain a Fort Pierce McDonald's had run out of Chicken McNuggets. Or the St. Petersburg men who called multiple times, one seeking someone to have sex with him, the other complaining his mom had taken his beer away.

All three were arrested, but that only happens in extreme cases of 911 abuse.

"We generally try to educate people and inform them that their call is not an emergency," said Jim Leljedal, spokesman for the Broward Sheriff's Office. "It's when we have these outrageous abuses that you have to take action."

For Broward dispatchers, who handle 22 cities and 17 fire departments, many of the oddball calls come from kids.

"We get those every day, when kids pick up the phone and dial 911 just on a dare or to see what happens," Leljedal said. "What happens is they get a lecture from a deputy."

Many non-emergency calls are innocent misuse, rather than abuse, of the system.

"You get people who call and ask what time it is. Lonely old people want conversation," said Kim Rubio, Broward Sheriff's Office communications manager. "Sometimes you get cuckoo birds that call you all the time and make all sorts of false claims."

Dispatchers use discretion and a case-by-case assessment. Usually they will gently inform the caller that 911 is reserved for emergencies and direct them to a non-emergency line.

"You will have mental conditions in people that cause them to call 911," Rick Jones, operation issues director for the National Emergency Number Association, said from his Rockford, Ill., office. "Others misuse or just repeatedly call it."

When that happens, dispatchers often will assign an officer to investigate. "If they're calling more than two or three times we'll send somebody out there," said Rubio.

Officers typically will impress upon the caller that it's illegal to dial 911 capriciously. If the caller still persists, an arrest is imminent.

"Those should be prosecuted to the fullest extent," said Stephen O'Conor, president of the emergency number association and assistant communications manager for West Palm Beach police. "There is a possibility that they could jeopardize others" by tying up 911 lines.

Emergency lines usually are sufficient enough to capture all incoming calls, even if one dispatcher is busy dealing with a junk call. The strain on the system can come when officers' time is spent dealing with a troublesome caller rather than more important matters.

Curiously, many people, often the elderly, won't call 911 when they should, fearful of monopolizing an emergency line. "A lot of these people that have true emergencies are spending time looking up the non-emergency number," Rubio said.

Other times folks will call about a perceived emergency, such as the older woman who wanted paramedics to help uncap her pill bottle. But what constitutes a true emergency can be subjective, and dispatchers must err on the side of caution.

"For an elderly person living alone, a lot of little things could be an emergency," Leljedal said. "If an elderly woman living alone can't open her own medicine bottle, there's probably a need there for social services."

As long as folks drink, and as long as 911 remains easy to access, emergency professionals say, crank calls will be dialed in. But it's all part of the system.

"The good that we do certainly outweighs the inconvenience of having to respond to nonessential calls," O'Conor said. "You have to take the bad with the good."
LINK TO TOP 911 CALLS AND PHOTOS
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/sfl-wacky-911-calls-gallery,0,7609200.photogallery

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

Archives

June 2021   May 2021   April 2021   March 2021   February 2021   January 2021   December 2020   November 2020   October 2020   September 2020   August 2020   July 2020   June 2020   May 2020   April 2020   March 2020   February 2020   January 2020   December 2019   November 2019   October 2019   September 2019   August 2019   July 2019   June 2019   May 2019   April 2019   March 2019   February 2019   January 2019   December 2018   November 2018   October 2018   September 2018   August 2018   July 2018   June 2018   May 2018   April 2018   March 2018   February 2018   January 2018   December 2017   November 2017   October 2017   September 2017   August 2017   July 2017   June 2017   May 2017   April 2017   March 2017   February 2017   January 2017   December 2016   November 2016   October 2016   September 2016   August 2016   July 2016   June 2016   May 2016   April 2016   March 2016   February 2016   January 2016   December 2015   November 2015   October 2015   September 2015   August 2015   July 2015   June 2015   May 2015   April 2015   March 2015   February 2015   January 2015   December 2014   November 2014   October 2014   September 2014   August 2014   July 2014   June 2014   May 2014   April 2014   March 2014   February 2014   January 2014   December 2013   November 2013   October 2013   September 2013   August 2013   July 2013   June 2013   May 2013   April 2013   March 2013   February 2013   January 2013   December 2012   November 2012   October 2012   September 2012   August 2012   July 2012   June 2012   May 2012   April 2012   March 2012   February 2012   January 2012   December 2011   November 2011   October 2011   September 2011   August 2011   July 2011   June 2011   May 2011   April 2011   March 2011   February 2011   January 2011   December 2010   November 2010   October 2010   September 2010   August 2010   July 2010   June 2010   May 2010   April 2010   March 2010   February 2010   January 2010   December 2009   November 2009   October 2009   September 2009   August 2009   July 2009   June 2009   May 2009   April 2009   March 2009   February 2009   January 2009   December 2008  

Powered by Lottery PostSyndicated RSS FeedSubscribe