Utah police track down caller who made 150 911 calls www.privateofficer.com
West Valley Utah Sept 28 2011 Officers for the West Valley City Police Department found themselves walking door-to-door recently, trying to track down a disconnected cellphone that an adult female with a diminished mental capacity used to make about 150 calls to 911 over a course of about three days, said Lt. Michael Coleman.
They tracked down the parents, who were unaware their old cellphone could still call emergency services.
“A lot of times, people just don’t realize it,” Coleman said.
But that ignorance can tie up phone lines when others with legitimate emergencies are trying to call, and it takes up officers’ time. Phones that are no longer on a service plan but still have battery power can make the emergency call but can’t receive calls back. So, when dispatchers attempt to call back the number, they can’t get through.
They are able to track down a general location, but that can be as large as a 100-yard radius around a cellphone tower. The West Valley City Police Department’s policy requires an officer to then go canvas the area to look for obvious signs of distress, but they won’t go door-to-door. In the case of the woman, the hundreds of calls were tying up emergency lines and necessitated a door-to-door search. The department was able to narrow the area down to a handful of houses, and they eventually found the culprit.
But even in cases when someone calls 911 by accident, the department’s policy requires two officers to go check out the house to make sure that there isn’t an emergency happening where the caller isn’t comfortable admitting to calling 911 because of domestic violence or another situation where the potential assailant is in earshot.
“The amount of time and resources that it takes can be incredible,” Coleman said. “Even if it may only take driving time plus two minutes for officers to check on it, but that’s time that could delay response to a real emergency.”
Coleman said it’s good for people to know that even if they have canceled their cellphone plan, they can still call 911 for help, as long as the phone is powered. But he advises parents not to treat old cellphones as toys.
“We want people to have the ability to call for help,” Coleman said. “But when they do call, we want to make sure it is an emergency.”
Source:Salt Lake Tribune