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Old 03-13-2011, 03:31 PM   #1
snoozn
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Default How do police handle 911 nuisance calls?

I tried to google this, but could only find examples of nuisance calls ("My McNuggets are cold!"). A few articles did mention that people could be prosecuted, but I'm wondering if 911 operators handle calls any differently from someone who is a known nuisance caller. My suspicion is that they don't, due to liability issues. But it would be useful to my story if the operator could at least tell the caller that he is on a list and imply that his call may not be acted on immediately.
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Old 03-13-2011, 03:48 PM   #2
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Default Re: How do police handle 911 nuisance calls?

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Originally Posted by snoozn View Post
I tried to google this, but could only find examples of nuisance calls ("My McNuggets are cold!"). A few articles did mention that people could be prosecuted, but I'm wondering if 911 operators handle calls any differently from someone who is a known nuisance caller. My suspicion is that they don't, due to liability issues. But it would be useful to my story if the operator could at least tell the caller that he is on a list and imply that his call may not be acted on immediately.
It varies somewhat but those sorts of calls are common. The operator sees different information about the call depending what state or area you're in. One-off nuisance calls are often just reminded politely that they have wrongly called 911. Repeat nuisance callers can be prosecuted and in some jurisdictions their phone account can be suspended. Nuisance callers are not usually recorded on a list, but the originating phone number is 'flagged' so that it shows with a reference to repeat nuisance calls whenever a call originates from that number. Depending on the size of the call center, some are referred to a supervisor who will advise the caller that action might be taken if the calls continue. It also depends on what sort of assistance the caller is requesting. In some jurisdictions, for example, the fire department is obliged to attend all fire calls even if they suspect the call is fake and in many departments the fire response is automated by computer - the 911 operator enters details into the system and the dispatch computer initiates an automated response, so there is little or no human discretion (= error) in some instances. But in a nutshell, one-off nuisance callers are often politely educated, and repeat nuisance callers are usually warned of action that might be taken.
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Old 03-13-2011, 04:16 PM   #3
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Default Re: How do police handle 911 nuisance calls?

not a pro.
i think the real action is non-action from police officers who are sick and tired of going to that house. but there is a law against making false alarm calls... and action will be taken accordingly (like davidk said) but i don't think the 911 operator has any real power except to identifying the nuisance calls themselves. but for the sake of your story you can fudge the real truth on this. just make it reasonable.
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Old 03-14-2011, 10:29 AM   #4
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Default Re: How do police handle 911 nuisance calls?

Thanks for the quick responses! For my purposes, my guy is kind of a "boy who cried wolf." He's called police several times on claims they've looked into and found false. The last time, he has the "ticking time bomb" right there, but I'd like them to be slow to respond. I really like the idea of his call being transferred to a supervisor and he's given a lecture while time is a-wasting. (Plus, we know that the cops are not going to hurry over).
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Old 03-14-2011, 06:14 PM   #5
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Default Re: How do police handle 911 nuisance calls?

I was a 9-1-1 (police/fire) operator for 13 years. I had non-emergency calls on 9-1-1 that ranged from kids telling me they had to poop before they cracked up with laughter (which elicited a visit from an officer to scare the poop out of the child) to a drunk man who threatened me and called me every name in the book. For this guy, I pressed charges against him for Disorderly Conduct - Filing a False Police Report, Disorderly Conduct (the general offense), and a few other small charges. I had to go to testify against him; tapes from the actually calls, along with my computer logs were presented as evidence. He was found guilty on all charges.

I used to have an old lady who would call in the middle of the night (on 9-1-1) and ask me the time. I would tell her the time and tell her to have sweet dreams.

Like everyone said, it really depends on the caller. Anyone CAN be charged with a misdemeanor (which varies - depending on what state you are in). Still, only the bad ones are actually charged. If it's a kid, and I could get the parent on the phone, I would handle it that way. If nobody answered the phone, they found an officer at their door.

Any more dispatch questions, feel free to PM.
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Old 03-16-2011, 01:36 PM   #6
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Default Re: How do police handle 911 nuisance calls?

It depends on state law. In Nevada for example, abuse of 911 is a gross misdemeanor, which means a police officer may arrest someone even if the offence was not committed in the officer’s presence (most of these violations are not committed in an officer’s presence). Commonly an officer will give a warning, but it is not required.

In practice, arrests are made for serious or repeated 911 abuse, or when the caller is abusive to the call-taker and that is conveyed to the responding officer.
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Old 03-17-2011, 11:36 AM   #7
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Default Re: How do police handle 911 nuisance calls?

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Originally Posted by mswriterj View Post
I used to have an old lady who would call in the middle of the night (on 9-1-1) and ask me the time. I would tell her the time and tell her to have sweet dreams.

Like everyone said, it really depends on the caller. Anyone CAN be charged with a misdemeanor (which varies - depending on what state you are in). Still, only the bad ones are actually charged. If it's a kid, and I could get the parent on the phone, I would handle it that way. If nobody answered the phone, they found an officer at their door.
I love that you can ask a question here and get this level of an answer...

My only issue with the original poster's question- wouldn't it be out of line for the operator to tell the caller 'you're on a list?' I completely get the why and how of a police visit but somehow the operator making that call himself/herself seems like an overstep...
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Old 03-17-2011, 12:07 PM   #8
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Default Re: How do police handle 911 nuisance calls?

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My only issue with the original poster's question- wouldn't it be out of line for the operator to tell the caller 'you're on a list?' I completely get the why and how of a police visit but somehow the operator making that call himself/herself seems like an overstep...
I answered on PM about how to get around it. If all of the officers are tied up on a huge emergency (apartment building fire - pile up on the interstate) where all municiple, county, and state officers could be busy, the shift sergeant could tell the dispatcher that no cars are available (after he finds out who the caller is).
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Old 09-20-2018, 08:17 PM   #9
darrylrobida
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Default Re: How do police handle 911 nuisance calls?

How can I tell if I have been flagged as a police nuisance caller? Will a felony show up on the dispatchers screen when I call in?
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Old 09-20-2018, 09:59 PM   #10
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Default Re: How do police handle 911 nuisance calls?

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How can I tell if I have been flagged as a police nuisance caller? Will a felony show up on the dispatchers screen when I call in?
I don't know if they do it but technically they could. 911 calls are tied into a database, so theoretically, at least they could have a field with that information.

I installed phone systems for 35 years and 911 was usually done outside the system, often by a private company. When I installed telephone system in 29 Palms, CA, 911 calls were routed to a private company in Palm Springs, CA. That company would connect the database for that number and send it back to a dispatcher at the Marine base.

These databases always include the phone's address, usually a floor number, if more than one floor, often, what part of the floor the call originated from and sometimes the cubicle or office number. So they can get pretty detailed. So, I'm sure it would be possible to have a field for nuisance caller, or whatever.

As a phone system installer, I had to do a lot of testing of 911 calls. Some dispatchers were very helpful and some were just plain p*ssed off. When you call 911 to test or accidentally, the first words out of your mouth needs to be: "This is not an emergency". Then explain yourself.

If you accidentally call 911 (most common at a business where you have to dial "9" for an outside line), DON'T hang up. Put yourself in their position -- someone tried to call 911 and the phone got hung up -- what are they supposed to think? Those are the calls that will probably get an emergency response. But sometimes they'll call back to verify -- answer the phone and explain you made an accidental call.

An employee at the last company I worked for accidentally called 911 and hung up. They tried to call her back and she wouldn't answer. Since they had an address, floor and quadrant police and paramedics were dispatched. At first the employee tried to deny she called 911, finally admitted it -- ended up getting fired and possibly charged with a crime. All she needed to do was explain it was an accident and everything would have been fine.

Sorry for the long-winded answer.

The short answer is; it's fiction -- do what you want.
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